In Time Out, Howard Halle reviews the Dumas show at Zwirner. “In spite of its considerable reputation, I’ve never been particularly enamored of the work of Marlene Dumas. She demonstrates a marked propensity for marrying lugubrious themes (like portraits of drowning victims) to a thin, Neo-Expressionistic paint-handling that seems extraneous to the images involved; meanwhile, her palette tends to fall in the spectrum between bruised flesh and dried blood, urine stains and sour milk. The trouble with this package is not that it’s unlovely, but that ultimately, it is unconvincing. Dumas lays claim to a gravitas that feels more assumed than earned, as she often confuses self-importance for a deep unpacking of the human condition. The result is a mannered muddle that hits you over the head with significance.
“Still, I find it hard to shake off the effects of ‘Against the Wall,’ her current show at David Zwirner. All of her weaknesses as an artist remain amply on display, but this time, they don’t seem to get in the way of her main subject, which is the Middle East, specifically Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Considering the topic, and how easily Dumas could have gone off the rails dealing with it, it’s nothing short of a miracle that these canvases work as well as they do. Yet their impact is undeniable.”
“Marlene Dumas: Against the Wall,” David Zwirner, New York, NY. Through