In The New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl declares that Luc Tuymans is the most challenging painter in recent history. “A retrospective of the fifty-one-year-old Belgian artist at the Wexner Center for the Arts, in Columbus, Ohio, invites a verdict. Mine is a thumbs-up. Tuymans’s thinly brushed, drab-looking (but sneakily lovely) canvases, usually based on banal photographs with wispy political associations, dramatize the fallen state of painting since the nineteen-sixties. Tuymans also discovers in the very humiliation of the medium a surprising vitality. He does so with audacity, in terms of subject matter. He works in thematic series, whose topics have included the Holocaust, disease, Flemish nationalism, Belgian colonialism, post-9/11 America, and the mystique of Walt Disney. One of Tuymans’s first definitive works is a 1986 painting of the gas chamber at Dachau. The first-person touch of his brush is the work’s sole, and frail, emotional anchor. Tuymans is Flemish, a native and lifelong resident of Antwerp. He quit painting in the early nineteen-eighties to pursue filmmaking, resuming in 1985. Tuymans’s works would rather whisper than shout, though always in a vicinity of raw nerves.
“He has recently painted both a series touching on Belgian politics and a suite responding to America in the era of George W. Bush. His 2005 painting of Condoleezza Rice both demands and rejects answers. Tuymans articulates a modern tradition that gives equal weight to the dazed German Romanticism of Friedrich and the wide-awake Parisian modernity of Manet. He has compared his method to the self-developing of Polaroids, saying of his process, ‘It’s like I don’t know what I’m doing but I know how to do it, and it’s very strange.’ Tuymans is influential among younger painters, but he is not apt to become popular.”
Check out Tuymans’s cell phone tour of the show here.
“Luc Tuymans,” curated by co-curated by Madeleine Grynsztejn and Helen Molesworth. Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH. Through Jan. 3, 2010. “Luc Tuymans” travels from the Wexner Center to SFMOMA, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Luc Tuymans anticipates “steady sales”
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