David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings by Raoul De Keyser, marking the artist’s first show with the gallery in London. On view at 24 Grafton Street, Raoul De Keyser: Drift is organized around a group of twenty-two works completed shortly before his death in October 2012, and known as The Last Wall. Together, they revisit some of the major subjects that occupied the artist throughout his nearly fifty-year long career, including the landscape of the Belgian lowlands where he grew up and lived his entire life, the inconspicuous things close at hand, and the partition of the picture plane. These paintings will be accompanied by a careful selection of works from the 1990s onwards that are likewise representative of these subjects and further contextualize the later series. The exhibition marks De Keyser’s first major show in London since his critically acclaimed 2004 traveling survey of paintings at the Whitechapel Gallery.
De Keyser’s subtly evocative paintings are at once straightforward and cryptic, abstract and figurative. Made up of simple shapes and marks, they invoke spatial and figural illusions, yet remain elusive of any descriptive narrative. Despite—or precisely because of—their sparse gesturing, De Keyser’s works convey a visual intensity that inspires prolonged contemplation. Individually as well as collectively, they revolve around the activity of painting, but also move beyond its physical means to become more than the sum of their parts. Their apparent simplicity belies a lengthy gestation period, yet one that does not adhere to a pre-existing plan.
The Last Wall is shown here in its entirety for the first time. Formally and materially restrained, the delicate compositions are sometimes reduced to a line against a white background or two adjoining monochrome areas. While their often singular focus sets them apart from the earlier works on view, parallels emerge both in terms of color schemes and the artist’s unorthodox approach to the pictorial surface, which integrates an unpretentious use of basic materials with a lightness of touch that remains far from the expressive gesture. Among the paintings selected from public and private collections are some of De Keyser’s most significant works, including Front (1992), which was first exhibited at documenta IX in 1992, and Siesta (2000). Both eschew a compositional center in favor of a non-hierarchical arrangement of forms and marks, but a sense of constancy throughout the earlier and later works is found in the relationships between figure and ground, and plane and depth.
Raoul De Keyser: Drift is curated by the art historian Ulrich Loock and will travel to David Zwirner, New York in Spring 2016. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by David Zwirner Books, featuring new scholarship on the artist by Loock.
Raoul De Keyser (1930–2012) was born in 1930 in Deinze, Belgium. His work has been represented by David Zwirner since 1999, and the present exhibition marks the sixth solo show of his work at the gallery, and his first in London.
Since the mid-1960s, the artist’s work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions at prominent institutions. In 2000, a large-scale retrospective was presented at The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, which traveled to the Goldie Paley Gallery, Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia, and The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago. A major survey of the artist’s paintings traveled extensively from 2004 through 2005 to the Whitechapel Gallery, London; Musée de Rochechouart, France; De Pont Museum for Contemporary Art, Tilburg, The Netherlands; Museu de Serralves, Porto, Portugal; and the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland. In 2009, his paintings were exhibited in a retrospective at the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany and his watercolors were presented jointly at the Museu de Serralves, Porto, Portugal and the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin. Other venues that have hosted important solo exhibitions over the past decade include the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent (2001); Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2002); Museum van Deinze en de Leiestreek, Deinze, Belgium (2007 and 2013); Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France (2008); De Loketten, Flemish Parliament, Brussels (2011); and the Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (2015).
Work by the artist is held in permanent collections worldwide, including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent; among numerous others.