After showcasing the work of Anselm Kiefer, an icon of German art of the 1980s, the Musée is following up with an exhibition devoted to an emblematic figure in the new German painting. From September 14, 2006 to January 7, 2007, the Musée d’art contemporain presents Neo Rauch, the artist’s first Canadian show, featuring a group of eight paintings produced between 2002 and 2005.
Sought after by collectors and museums the world over, Neo Rauch is the most prominent and influential graduate of Leipzig’s Academy of Visual Arts, which is famous for being a mecca for Socialist Realism prior to German reunification. Traces of this style of painting are still apparent in Rauch’s figurative work, in which unusual or dreamlike images vie with undercurrents of reflection, introspection and reverie. The strangeness of his art arises from the unexpected combination of iconographic and visual elements from different worlds: comic strips, advertising and film; architecture and design; and German culture, art history and history in general. “The instant we lay eyes on a painting by Neo Rauch, we can scarcely remain indifferent,” says the curator, Réal Lussier. “The nature of the subject matter, the treatment of space, ruptures of scale and incongruity of certain motifs conspire to rivet our attention and destabilize us.”
In Lösung (Solution), 2005, for example, the canvas offers more puzzles than it solves. It amalgamates various major painting styles: genre pictures, history painting, landscape and portrait. Four pairs of characters are shown in ambiguous scenes. Viewed through the window of a house, a man and woman are engaged in a struggle… or an embrace. Outside, a soldier in a Napoleonic uniform is holding a gun on a prisoner wearing shorts and a T-shirt, while a young man, dressed like the prisoner, is walking with his hands clasped behind his back (or are they tied?). Next to him, a patriarchal figure (a modern-day Laocoön) is holding a phylactery in the form of an enormous earthworm, on which are written the letters Lösung (Solution), the painting’s title. Are these simply different sequences in the same story? It is all a confusion, of time, space and references—just like a Kafka novel or a dream.