When you enter the Luc Tuymans show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA), you get a feeling you might know from the start of horror movies: Nothing is obviously scary, everything is like everyday – then, suddenly, the monster appears and the horror takes its course.
Luc Tuymans is a formally trained painter from Antwerp, Belgium. He has solid artistic capability in the tradition of Dutch old master’s painting. In the 1980s he took a break from painting and spent some years as a self-thought filmmaker. Today in his paintings, he still uses filmic techniques, like close-ups, in a way a camera man would do.
His images are often pale and elegant. Many are taken from mass media or historic images. He uses these images and fades them to the pale colors from his typical color palette.
None of the motifs make a scary impression. Until you take a closer look and read the title or the description of the work. This is the moment Tuymans has the monsters of history appear.
Or, the portrait of a woman is reinterpreted as a deadly disease from a medical textbook (The Diagnostic View).
Mr. Tuymans always was a very political artist: In 2001, he was invited to represent Belgium at the Venice Biennial. He did large-scale paintings questioning Belgium’s history as a colonial power in (Belgian) Congo. The portrait of the murdered President Lumumba is a good example for this series.
In 2002, he was one of the contributors to the important Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany. This 11th Documenta was a lot about social responsibility and political issues. The curators headed by Okwui Enwezor expected him to show critical works about 9/11 or the history of Germany or Belgium. Again, he disappointed all expectations and showed a large-scale still life. Luc Tuymans is hard to capture.
In recent years of the art market boom, Tuymans’ paintings enormously increased in value. Now, after the art market bubble burst, many speculators lost quite some money. The artist does not care. He thinks the financial crisis will get the collectors more to focus on the art itself, than the profit.
I like his point of view.
by C. Lambert
Then it will travel to Dallas Museum of Art (June 6 to September 5, 2010), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (October 2, 2010, to January 9, 2011), and the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (February 10 to May 8, 2011).