February 2008, Luc Tuymans @ David Zwirner

Luc Tuymans Wonderland,
2007 Oil on canvas 138.98 x 215.35 inches 353 x 547 cm
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

Luc Tuymans
David Zwirner Gallery
525 West 19th Street
New York, NY 10011

 A German reporter at Luc Tuymans’ press preview tried to differ with Mr. Tuymans. He argued that his sensibility was not the style of the period, but rather, that he was quite unique. Seamless gallerists were dressed in royal blue silk, large black polka dots against dark green, retro 1950's skirts accessorized with little high heeled boots. They stood around juxtaposed against an image of a snow swept dwarf. Different shapes that looked like icicles or boulders set in a cavernous tunnel, lunar pads referencing the first topical, iconic theme park; “the future” was mysteriously depicted. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves were forever lost in the turquoise light of an icebox and a kitchen’s interior. Amorphous imagery in muted colors which Tuymans calls radiant light pervade this exhibition.

 In 2009, his retrospective will be touring the U.S. for the first time. The Wexner Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will be the first stop and then the show will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art, and finally, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Luc Tuymans has created a traveling retrospective which in its essence has something in the nature of a carnival atmosphere. He has created it from the theme of Disneyland at EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). It is naturally influenced in color tonalities by Pablo Picasso’s “Blue Period.”
David Zwirner’s gallery on 19th Street has two large galleries devoted to Tuymans’ paintings which are of mural scale, only transportable on giant stretchers and canvas. I believe that when Tuymans paints, he considers the paintings changeability when seen minimized into a glossy magazine or photographed with people juxtaposed against them.

 In actuality, they have a very different effect when seen in the viewfinder of a digital camera than when looking at them in reality. As he tried to explain to the press, they are born out of the television generation. In fact, the color does resemble the old bubble glass television sets which made the images seem opalescent.

Luc Tuymans, Epcot,
2007 Oil on canvas 60 3/4 x 87 3/4 inches 154.3 x 222.9 cm
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

 The Belgians feel energized by their national statue of the little boy relieving himself out in public. Legends say that he pissed out the fire that was heading towards tons of dynamite. The TNT was placed by the French when they tried to invade the City of Brussels, around 1200-1300. The French placed it against the city walls to have easy access. Brussels was a Flemish city in those days. "Manneke Pis" is Flemish, it means 'little boy peeing.”

 The Belgians, raised as staunch Catholics, are surrounded by three different languages, French, Dutch and German. Luc Tuymans is from Antwerp and speaks (Flemish dialect) Dutch. He approaches his paintings as ethereal objects of art. His childlike innocence and conceptual self-portrayals refer, as it were, to Mr. Walt Disney. Mice and men or the moody shadows of Disneyland at EPCOT are journals of places resembling fantasies of utopian districts, in muted shades of turquoise and greys. Setting this theme for his traveling retrospective allows Tuymans the chance to hold the “new world” in his hands. The huge gallery becomes a visual wall of remembrance for the artist to deconstruct Hansel and Gretel and reconstruct his own existence based upon Walt Disney’s new model of the modern man.

 Hurtgen Forest was a dark and dismal trap of ancient evergreens and firs,impenetratable caves of vines, a forest canopy where thick fog and unending rain lead into a nightmare for the American soldiers during World War II. One gets the feeling that these references to Disneyland’s rides and temples of thrills may be, at first glance, a bit over the top and might have something to do with Belgium having been a site which was historically invaded over and over for hundreds of years, and then most recently by Allied troops who tried to use it as a pathway to Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley.
 This doesn’t surprise me because animation and sociology seem to be the fashion of the times. I do worry though that individuality may be compromised by science and the whole purpose of originality becomes nationalistic and larger than life on some level. I think that’s what the German reporter at the press preview was getting at.


Claudia Schwalb

Schwalb graduated from Pratt Institute in 1974.  She was an emerging artist during the Minimalist movement in the 1970's.  She was raised in New York City during the Abstract Expressionist era. Claudia was the youngest artist ever to have a solo exhibition at The Clocktower/P.S.1 in 1977.  Claudia went on to write for Barbara Rose's Journal of Art and was one of the Contributing Editors of Cover/Arts New York along with John Yau and Judd Tully (Editor-at-Large for Arts & Auction).  She was Curator of the Knitting Factory and a television news transcriber for Peter Jennings' World News Tonight.  Subsequently, Claudia transcribed two movies, "Refuge" and "Interview with the Dalai Lama" which played at the Quad last year.  claudschwa@aol.com

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