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Galerie EIGEN + ART, Berlin
Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne, Neo Rauch Begleiter, April 20 - August 15, 2010
Neo Rauch Begleiter, exh. cat., Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2010, pp. 24-25 (illustrated)
“Naturally, my figures always remain in the gestural realm, but within the frozen gesture, they express the potential for action.” Neo Rauch, 2014
In the rich magenta folds of the figures’ dress, the pink halo surrounding the climbing ferns, and the sugar-coated ground upon which the drama unfolds, Fastnacht, 2010, encapsulates Neo Rauch’s reveal that his work flows directly from his dreams. Thus, he offers us his unique vision of Surrealism, in which, “I have no use for the cultishness of classic Surrealism or for its tight repertoire of methods. In fact just the opposite is true: on my canvas, as in my mind, anything is possible.” (Gary Tinterow, Neo Rauch para, New York 2007, p. 5) Curiously, these extraordinary surrealist scenes are comprehensively developed on the canvas with no preliminary sketches or studies—they are entirely unplanned. He stores his dreams in his memory and captures them on the canvas inveigling his viewers as in this paradigmatic scene in Fastnacht, peopled by silent prosaic human figures floating and gliding in a dreamlike atmosphere.
Fundamentally, Rauch is a figurative painter par excellence, whose art is for him the most important thing in life. Rauch defines painting as a “Responsible use of the elementary ingredients of color, form and
composition.” (a Conversation between Klaus Werner and Neo Rauch, in Neo Rauch para, New York 2007, p.53). One can readily see, in the present lot, the draftsmanship which epitomizes his philosophy of art and with which he depicts the different characters thrust into a fantastical landscape. Furthermore, the figures and landscape also illustrate the conscious choice of hues. The striking colors in the central figures immediately catch the viewer’s attention and one's eyes linger on these luscious, velvety tones of green, burgundy and pink, which are uncannily luminous and off-tone. His palette is influenced by American pre-Pop paintings from the late 1950s, which add a vintage and nostalgic feel to it. This palette was also used by Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke during the 1960s. Although the colors create an eerie atmosphere, they are very subdued; more importantly, their origins are not primarily American pre-Pop, but from everyday life in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In East Germany during the Socialist era, everything, ranging from architecture to products on shelves in stores and supermarkets, had these astonishing tones that are particular to the socialist milieu. These tones were purposefully created to not make a consumer not want to buy a product, as opposed to how consumerist nations would use these design colors to induce the consumer to buy the product. Undoubtedly, Rauch might have purposefully chosen this palette as “he displays a pride that can live with his connection to the history of East Germany, the Communist ‘youth dedication’ rite…” (Werner spies, Neo Rauch para, New York 2007, p.8). Thus, Rauch appropriated these colors; the atmosphere this particular palette creates is one of his major artistic achievements.
Despite the element of spontaneity he conveys in his works, he also has certain recurring themes in his tableaux. To begin with, the surrealist landscapes he creates are the landscapes in which he lives and works. His way of illustrating them, however, makes them generally desolate and outlandish. Another recurring theme, and one that we can view in this particular painting, are the log cabins in the woods that
are typical of Central Europe. The figures he renders in these painting are also typical insofar as they seem to be part of a still life. Rauch views these figures more or less as he would any inanimate
object devoid of life, which is why they are like still lives. What he is alluding to through the figures and all the elements of painting is, as he aptly states, “to suggest an impression of tension just about to break. And the figures have a role play in that, as far as they can.” (a Conversation between Klaus Werner and Neo Rauch, in Neo Rauch para, New York 2007, p.53). One can clearly see this in the painting when we observe the central figures: Rauch has frozen two characters in this state of tensions with Samurai shaped swords in their hands, which could lead to any action our imaginations desires. Rauch is also fixated on and was fascinated by uniforms and costumes. Again the central figures are wearing outlandish costumes that are similar to those of Turkish Janissaries, wearing horse shaped skirts and each grasping a decapitated head, presumably cut off with their scimitars and both are frozen in a moment of tension, or as Dervish dancers, perhaps in a state of trance.
In the final analysis, Rauch is not merely a representational painter, because he “addresses social themes and the psychological state of contemporary culture, whose possibilities for an outsider’s view are greater today than ever before.” (Vernhart Schwenk, Neo Rauch Paintings, Germany 2010, p.11). In his quest to create a balance between individual and collective action, he has created a pictorial language that illustrates a timeless historicity.
New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm