Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Luc Tuyman Retrospective On Not So Long Career

Exhibition Title: Luc Tuyman Retrospective
Location: SFMoMa 151 Third Street San Francisco, CA 94103
February 6 - May 8, 2010

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is currently presenting the first U.S retrospective of artist, Luc Tuymans. Slated by SFMoMa as, "One of the most significant painters working today," Tuymans's work predominantly situates itself within the realm of global histories, postcolonial issues, and the aftermath of war/tragedy. The exhibition brings together over seventy-five pieces by Tuymans dated after 1985, inviting the spectator to reflect upon national historic memories and moments of destruction, while exposing global topics one might not be as apprised in. For this reason, Tuymans' retrospective reaches its audience through various historical reference points, surpassing geographic borders and uniting the international by moments of turmoil.

Luc Tuyman The Perfect Table Setting 2005

In viewing Tuymans's retrospective, the influences of photography and cinema become apparent from his collection entitled, Proper. Complied of work surrounding September 11th and the months proceeding under the Bush Administration, Tuymans strategically focuses on the cinematic/photographic elements of cropping and framing his subject matter to recall horrific moments in time. Working from actual photographs he took during a trip to the White House, Tuymans cropped, The Perfect Table Setting as both an homage to the classical still-life genre of painting and to allude to America's struggle to maintain a status of wealth and perfection while confronting the war on terror. His focus on the symbolic representation of a "perfect" high class dinner, while gloomier truths lay beneath the painting's surface, comments on American politic as it tries to mask war and invasion with the shiny cocktail place settings of the White House.

Exploring perception in another dark moment in history, Tuymans' collection
Der Architekt (The Architect), calls to attention the horrific tales from the Holocaust and post World War II. Images such as, Gaskamer (Gas Chamber) go beyond expectation in that it captures a setting of inexplicable tragedy and perish, yet presents itself as aesthetically pleasing and tolerable to observe despite its historical reference. It is within Der Architekt that Tuymans references a struggle manifesting within the arts today; the barrier of language. The limitations of the written word fails to fully encompass the truth and understanding of the destruction and emotional turmoil that plaque Tuymans' work. The written word's inability to universally describe a scene, such as a gas chamber, refrains the public from totalizing an experience, leaving one only with artistic expression, to at the very least touch on such heavy-handed subjects.

Luc Tuyman Gaskamer (Gas Chamber) 2005

The most noteworthy observation of Tuymans' work is his ability to transform a room stripped bare with white walls, into a pastel landscape of assorted figures, landscapes, and textiles. The overall curation fluidly exemplified the various collections represented throughout the exhibit, utilizing the spaces of every turn and corridor to entrap the viewer into each tiny world reflecting on each assemblage of global histories.
Overall it was an enjoyable experience to view Tuymans' work at SFMoMa largely for its ability to tackle historically charged content with commanding aesthetic beauty. His way of romanticizing or editing moments of weakness easily fooled the eye into believing it was beholding a moment of triumph. The range of work that transpired from this retrospective lay bare the understandings of masked perceptions and the truths that rest beneath the most captivating renderings of such a principal artist.


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