October 18, 2018–February 25, 2019
Fondazione Prada presents Sanguine: Luc Tuymans on Baroque, the artist’s major curatorial project that spans centuries in search of the formal and conceptual boundaries of the baroque in art history. Tuymans places significant pieces by Caravaggio, Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, Francisco de Zurbarán, and other Baroque masters in dialogue with contemporary works by artists including Michaël Borremans, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Marlene Dumas, On Kawara, Bruce Nauman, and Zhang Enli. This exhibition expands on Sanguine/Bloedrood at the Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA) in Antwerp earlier this year and is the latest of a number of significant museum shows organized by Tuymans.
Taking as its starting point Walter Benjamin’s description of the Baroque as marking the beginning of modernity, Sanguine sees this period as an important reference point for contemporary artists; avoiding chronology, the show juxtaposes examples from different moments in an effort to reveal how recent artworks not only extend Baroque attitudes and approaches into the present day, but also help to redefine them in areas such as figurative composition. "Sanguine," evoking both the color of blood and an expressive temperament, suggests multiple interpretations of the works on view. As Tuymans wrote in his curatorial statement, "The term ‘baroque’ continues to evoke some of its original negative connotations—exaggeration and indulgence—but simultaneously suggests something exciting, something elusive. . . . The aim is to make a feedback to our present time."
"The Baroque is as much a temperament as a style," Jason Farago writes in his New York Times review of the show in Antwerp; "It’s theatrical, and obsessed with death. . . . It’s this visceral character that seems to interest Mr. Tuymans most in Baroque art, and much of the most compelling contemporary work in ‘Sanguine/Bloedrood’ echoes the 17th-century tradition in its excess and intensity, rather than in its appearance. . . . Perhaps this is the real point . . . beyond the formal echoes of light and shadow across centuries: that the extremity of Antwerp’s old style serves all too naturally for art that aims to depict our present age."
Antwerp is in full Baroque mode, with half a dozen museums devoting their summer programming to the high-drama art of the 17th century, and to Rubens, the city’s favorite son. Even the Museum of Contemporary Art has got in the 17th-century spirit with the substantial exhibition Sanguine/Bloedrood, an exercise in luster, mortality and timeline-smashing. Recent works by Sigmar Polke, On Kawara and Marlene Dumas share space with a major late work by Caravaggio, and portraits by Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens.
The curator of Sanguine/Bloedrood is Luc Tuymans—the artist who bestrides Antwerp’s scene today as Rubens did four centuries ago, though his paintings are as cool and color-sapped as Rubens’s are showy and saturated. Mr. Tuymans is a practiced curator, a rarity among artists: In 2016 he organized a well-received retrospective of the Belgian Expressionist James Ensor at the Royal Academy in London, and he has curated shows of German Romanticism and Polish contemporary art.
The show’s anchor is Caravaggio’s Flagellation of Christ, painted in 1607-8, in which the bearded, thorn-crowned son of God looks downward as two men tie him to a column while a third prepares to flog his naked body with a cat-o’-nine-tails. Jesus’ bright, alabaster flesh is set off from the shadowy background in intense chiaroscuro, which Mr. Tuymans compounds by displaying the painting under a spotlight in an all-black circular gallery.
Yet the Baroque is as much a temperament as a style. It’s theatrical, and obsessed with death. It’s also profoundly Catholic—the Baroque era coincides with the Counter-Reformation, and artists here in Flanders relied on cash from the church or from patrons in Spain, which ruled the Catholic Netherlands, to produce these extravagant images. It’s this visceral character that seems to interest Mr. Tuymans most in Baroque art, and much of the most compelling contemporary work in Sanguine/Bloedrood echoes the 17th-century tradition in its excess and intensity, rather than in its appearance.
In the most striking move of Sanguine/Bloedrood, on a wall in the same gallery are a clutch of On Kawara’s frosty "Date Paintings," each carefully lettered with the day, month and year on which the Japanese-American artist made it. These archetypes of conceptual painting, accompanied, too, by Kawara’s nearly unknown early prints of atomic bomb victims, have never appeared more operatic and ghoulish than they do here.
And perhaps this is the real point of Mr. Tuymans’s peculiar exhibition, beyond the formal echoes of light and shadow across centuries: that the extremity of Antwerp’s old style serves all too naturally for art that aims to depict our present age. For [Edward] Kienholz and for so many other artists here, the Baroque had become a kind of realism.
Read the full review in The New York Times
Image: Jacob Jordaens, Studies of the Head of Abraham Grapheus, 1621 (detail).
Tuesday, March 20, 6:30 PM
24 Grafton Street, London
Tuymans considers Wróblewski’s work to have significantly influenced his own painting practice—particularly with regard to the depiction of the human figure and negative space. Wróblewski posited the body as a real and complicated subject, while also addressing the limits of its representation.
In 2015, works by Tuymans and Wróblewski (who died a year before Tuymans’s birth) were presented in DE. FI. CIEN. CY, an exhibition at the Drawing Room in London that also included René Daniëls, and had previously been shown at Art Stations Foundation in Poznań in 2014. In an interview with Anda Rottenberg for the publication accompanying the show, Tuymans commented on his and his predecessor’s use of "the empty space, the void." In his catalogue essay, the exhibition’s curator, Ulrich Loock, connects this with the two artists’ approach to figuration, noting "the use of single figures that appear isolated on the picture plane and assume all the wait of the work’s meaning. In Wróblewski’s work from 1955 to 1957 . . . and almost all of Tuymans’s work, these figures are withdrawn from any narrative context."
In 2010, Tuymans included Wróblewski’s work in The Reality of the Lowest Rank: A Vision of Central Europe, a group exhibition he curated that was shown at many cultural venues throughout the city of Bruges.
Read The Guardian's four-star review of the exhibition at David Zwirner.
In honor of the publication Luc Tuymans Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings: Volume 1, 1972–1994, the artist will be in conversation with Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
Seating is limited. RSVP to Irene McAllister, firstname.lastname@example.org
This first volume of a comprehensive record of paintings by Belgian artist Luc Tuymans highlights his generative early work. Edited by Eva Meyer-Hermann, it surveys nearly two hundred works that were vital to his artistic development and features an illustrated chronology with archival images and installation views of the works from this period, as well as new photography of each of the paintings. This publication is a testament to Tuymans’s persistent and influential assertion of the continuing relevance of painting.
Tell Me Something Good: Artist Interviews from The Brooklyn Rail brings together 60 of the New York-based journal's most important interviews, and includes conversations with gallery artists Suzan Frecon, Richard Serra, Luc Tuymans, and Lisa Yuskavage. Selected and co-edited by Jarrett Earnest, a frequent Brooklyn Rail contributor, and Lucas Zwirner, Editorial Director at David Zwirner Books, Tell Me Something Good includes an introduction to the project by Phong Bui as well as hand-drawn portraits of all the artists interviewed for the book. Published by David Zwirner Books
Luc Tuymans was the inaugural participant in RESETHOME, a new exhibition venue and artist residency in Belgium conceived by fellow artist Gert Robijns. The building is a recreation of Robijns's grandparents' home and also exists as a sculpture unto itself.
The Swamp, Tuymans's solo exhibition at RESETHOME, consisted of three new works. Shadows was a three-dimensional chalk drawing created by tracing the shadows cast on the floor. The drawing developed over time as the artist traced new shadows over existing ones. Plates is a series of lithographs depicting industrial crockery that was mass-produced in Croatia during the Soviet era. The works were reproduced as stickers and affixed to the windows, casting shadows when the sun shone through them. Upstairs, a floor painting entitled The Swamp was named after a 2017 Tuymans work that depicts a crawling figure. Raised slightly off the floor on a wooden base, the painting's rhomboid shape had a trompe l'oeil effect.
A catalogue raisonné of paintings by Luc Tuymans is available from David Zwirner Books. Compiled and edited by art historian Eva Meyer-Hermann, the catalogue raisonné illustrates and document approximately five hundred paintings by the artist from 1975 to the present day. Volume 1 of 3 was published in 2017.
Credited with a key role in the revival of painting in the 1990s, Tuymans continues to produce subtle, and at times unsettling, works that engage with history, technology, and everyday life. This first volume in the catalogue raisonné surveys nearly 200 works that were vital to his artistic development. The years 1978 to 1994 witnessed the maturation of his signature method of painting from preexisting imagery—such as magazine images, Polaroids, and television footage—as well as his first solo exhibition. Also dating from this period are many of his seminal canvases, along with ten poignant portraits of the ailing human body and Gaskamer and Schwarzheide (both 1986), which were part of the artist's first solo exhibition in 1988, to Die Zeit (1988), a four-part work shown in his critically acclaimed Documenta presentation in 1992.
The catalogue features an introductory essay by Eva Meyer-Hermann and an illustrated chronology with archival images and installation shots of the works in this volume, as well as new photographs of each of the paintings. This publication is a testament to Tuymans's persistent assertion of the relevance and importance of painting—a conviction that he maintains even in today's digital world, when his work continues to be a touchstone for artists and scholars.
Published by David Zwirner Books | Yale University Press