September 19, 2007

Georg Baselitz retrospective at the Royal Academy

"Georg Baselitz," Royal Academy of Arts, London. Through Dec. 9. In The Guardian, Adrian Searle reviews the Georg Baselitz retrospective at the Royal Academy: "For all the physicality of his art, he often appears to be chasing an image that wants to disappear. On a series of wooden panels whose surfaces have been roughly gouged with chiselled grids and wonky cross-hatchings, loom red-lipped women's heads with splotchy eyes, their hair and physiognomies blotted, sloppy and awry. The splintered, battered carved heads that sit on plinths in the same room are drenched in a radioactive yellow that somehow disguises the physicality of the material, rendering these carved heads spectral and almost immaterial. The show is full of jolts like this, unexpected twists, pictorial and sculptural games. Somehow, a more recent painting of four disembodied feet, making a swastika sign, just seems a lame gag.

"In the last decade, Baselitz has taken a direction I find hard to follow. The Royal Academy's biggest gallery is filled with what the artist calls his "remix" paintings, in which he revisits his earlier works and repaints them, in a style that embraces the decorative and illustrative. This is the biggest jolt of all in the show. Baselitz has said that the original Big Night Down the Drain took two months to paint. His recent remix version took a couple of hours. The painting has lost its strangeness and its danger. Read more.

In The Guardian, Norman Rosenthal reports: "As I look back over the many years I have known Baselitz and his art, I think there is a striking comparison to be made with Picasso. In their early years, both artists painted works that came from an inner necessity, the intensity of which frightened each of them. Both borrow from others, ruthlessly adopting ideas for their own purposes. Picasso used, among others, Raphael, Ingres, Delacroix and Cézanne. As well as taking from Cranach, Pontormo, Goltzius, Munch, Kirchner and indeed Picasso himself, Baselitz, too, has found affinities in the rough, anti-traditional, anarchic painting of the young Cézanne....very great artist since the Renaissance who has lived a long time - from Titian to Poussin, from Goya and Turner to Cézanne and then on to Picasso and Munch - has had to find ways to deal with the need for constant reinvention. After a career of almost 50 years, Baselitz still has the capacity to shock and behave unexpectedly, as he succeeds in being both out of his time and profoundly of it. For me, he is the greatest painter of our day still working in the great European tradition." Read more.

In an earlier TCOP post, Baselitz talks to Martin Gayford about his evolution from painting's bad boy to eminence grise.

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