Luc Tuymans, Speech, 2010. All images via David Zwirner Gallery.
In a series of new paintings entitled Corporate, Belgian artist Luc Tuymans explores the social implications and troubling consequences of corporations and corporate identities. Tracing the origins of modern industry back to the dissolution of medieval feudalism, Tuymans addresses the mechanisms by which these entities shape contemporary culture. Through the visual vocabulary of corporate life, ranging from workplace lighting conditions to iconographies of trade and marketing, Tuymans distills the essential formal qualities of this phenomenon’s historical impact.
More story and images after the jump….
Images like Factory, based on a magazine photograph, address some of the enduring environmental and topographical outcomes of corporate activity – the smog and hazy ruin of the landscape formally superseding the smokestacks that generated them. The Riding stages a kind of continuum between traditions of European chivalry, represented elsewhere in the series in works like Armour, and the elitism of modern equestrian culture.
From empty boardrooms like the one shown in Conference, to the obscured faces of the participants in Panel and the disused plate mail of Armour, Tuymans emphasizes the loss of identity and individualism incurred across social classes throughout the course of industrialization. The most literal representation of this motif is Anonymous: a faceless portrait based on an advertisement, in which the participation of the media in the process of cultural homogenization is also addressed.
In works like Corporate and Butterfly, the artist envisions the origins and evolutionary quality of the current cultural climate. In the former, a 17th century ship modeled after those used by England’s East India Company is presented as “a virtual, automated, disempowering, and dehumanizing specter.” In the latter, the protective camouflage of a moth, betraying the work’s title, suggests the strategically-devised cooperation between corporations and mass media in the dissemination of misinformation to the consumer.
Corporations is on view at David Zwirner’s 525 W. 19th Street location through December 21, 2010, and runs concurrently with a major traveling retrospective of the artist’s work. This retrospective debuted at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio on September 17, 2009, and has since been exhibited at the SFMOMA, Dallas Museum of Art, and MOCA Chicago, where it will conclude its tour in January 2011.