Since his first solo exhibition in 1985, Belgian artist Luc Tuymans has established himself as one of the most influential painters working today. He is well known for his distinctive painting style as well as for his choice of historically and emotionally charged subject matter. Tuymans derives his images from pre-existing sources, photographs, film stills, even mirror images. His deliberately spare palette, often-modest scale, unexpected cropping, obscured spaces, and blurred brushstrokes combine to reinforce the image’s status as a replica. Each canvas seems to exist as a faded memory or remnant from the past. For the past twenty-five years Tuymans has focused on some of the darkest and most politically charged events of the recent past including colonialism, the Holocaust, the events and aftermath of 9/11, and most recently the ideological, religious, and cultural conflicts that are unfolding globally. Paradoxically, Tuymans depicts these difficult subjects not by surveying monumental events, but by isolating and exploring both banal details and iconic images.
Tuymans paintings are typically conceived as a series or group for a specific exhibition the theme of which is conveyed through an ambiguous, yet suggestive title, for example, “Corporate” (2010),
“Proper” (2004), “Fortune” (2003), and “Heritage” (1996). While the meaning of an individual canvas is thus partially generated through its original context, subsequent exhibitions allow us to continually refresh our understanding of the work.
The conceptual core of Tuymans’s work is rooted in a fundamental skepticism about representation and the originality of painting. Perhaps better than any, the genre of portraiture allows Tuymans to explore the balance all painting strikes between revealing and concealing. Nice. Luc Tuymans will present approximately 30 paintings by the artist from his earliest mature work G. Dam, 1978 to canvases finished as recently as 2011. While most are portraits in the conventional sense, others, such as Bloodstains, 1993 and Fingers, 1995, illustrate the artist’s intentionally elliptical approach to representation. Tuymans’s works will be placed in dialogue with a selection of portraits from the Menil Collection’s permanent holdings. Exploiting the diversity of the collection, the exhibition will include works from ancient, African, and Native American cultures, alongside modern and contemporary examples of portraiture.
Organized by Menil Director Josef Helfenstein in collaboration with the artist, the exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with essays by critic, artist and curator Robert Storr.