Continuing its string of landmark exhibitions running concurrently with the spectacle of the Venice Biennale, François Pinault’s Palazzo Grassi has opened the doors on a major exhibition dedicated to the works of Belgian painter Luc Tuymans. Considered among the most influential painters of his generation, Tuymans has been dedicating himself to figurative painting since the mid-1980’s, and has regularly reinvented both himself, and the potentials for the medium, over the course of his work. Drawing from a range of sources and iconographies, his pieces at the Palazzo Grassi offer a welcome respite from the throngs outside, and the bustle of the early days of the Biennale.
Tuymans’s works deal in particular with questions connected to the past and to more recent history, to the act of remembering and constructing an event from borrowed fragments, ultimately arriving at a slurred, surreal remembrance of days, and images, gone by. His pieces, often pulled from both public and private spheres (press materials, television, film, the internet and elsewhere), his work makes the shared site of the image into a space for his own participation and invention. The artist renders these images by dissolving them in an unusual and rarefied light; the slight anxiety that emanates from them is able to trigger – according to the artist himself – an ‘authentic forgery’ of reality.
Curated by Caroline Bourgeois in collaboration with the artist (Mortsel, Belgium, 1958), the show is entitled ‘La Pelle’, after Curzio Malaparte’s 1949 novel, and includes over 80 works from the Pinault Collection, international museums and private collections, focused around the artist’s paintings from 1986 to today. There are a range of ideas of concepts explored here, from moments of subdued wonder, to explorations of the behavior of light in simple spaces, on to strange moments and bizarre scenes. In one work, a lone clown holds a handful of balloons, the washed out light and pale color palette giving the work an exceedingly stark atmosphere. Also of note is an impressive floor mosaic, culled from one of the artist’s works and translated by a group of artisans, almost inverting the rarefied impact of Damien’s Hirst’s massive ‘Demon with Bowl’ from the last Biennale show here.
This is perhaps the most striking aspect of Tuymans’s invitation here. While so many artist before him turned the space into an ongoing spectacle of encounter, Tuymans seems content to use this space as a site of reflection and consideration, allowing the echoing hallways of his subject matter to clear out space for the viewer to think, to reflect, and to recall.
The works are on view through January 6, 2020.
— D. Creahan
La Pelle – Luc Tuymans [Exhibition Site]