neo rausch: talismans of rhapsodic complacency


Rauch has titled the entire show “Para.” The curator, Gary Tinterow, the Met’s chief of modern and contemporary art, writes in the catalogue that he believes the artist “hopes to set in motion a string of associations with the prefix: paranormal, parallel, paradox, and so on.” “Paradox” seems wrong, for want of any apparent doxa to contradict, and so does the idea of a response “set in motion.” Rauch’s stories don’t come from or go anywhere, as far as I can tell. Every association—in the painting “Para,” to hunting, music, theatre, and magic—is a cul-de-sac: arriving at it, you must return by the route you took. Rauch’s hermeticism is most daunting when his scenes are most nearly naturalistic. Four figures with crossbows inhabit “Jagdzimmer” (“Hunter’s Room”). One young man lights another’s cigarette; a bearded man gestures strangely; and a woman pokes at a dead bird on a table. Their poses have the charged solemnity of Balthus, without the erotic crackle. Nothing seems to be at issue for them. (The bird is beyond caring.) But masterly areas of the painting, astonishingly varied in style, captivate. Rauch tends to use oils as if they were poster paints, flatly—often scumbling, rather than glazing or blending, to modulate tones and colors. The result is a surreptitious richness. The rhetorical potency of oils—sensuous texture, light-drinking color, infinite suggestiveness—strains at a short, taut leash. The constrictive effect strikes me as perverse, but it is certainly original. It also anchors Rauch’s importance as an artist of and for the historical imbroglio of art today.

more from the New Yorker here.