One of the central themes in Belgian artist Luc Tuymans’s (b. 1958, Antwerp) work is the disastrous events of previous and most recent history such as the holocaust, 9/11 or for many Europeans, Belgium's sordid legacy in post-colonial Congo and its African leader Patrice Lumumba – motifs that for a long time were deemed not presentable. And while his figurative paintings deny a palpable legibility where the motifs are often not clearly recognizable, Tuymans’s works are defined by the stylistic methods of film and photography – unusual details, close-ups, the aesthetics of stills. They can be read as allegories of memory: certain pictures or aspects appear brightly, others disappear in the dark. Tuyman asserts that memory can be deceptive, subjective and patchy. For this reason tuymans employs blurriness, a shadowiness and omission as a visual medium, adding something nebulous or phantom-like to the paintings and evoking the impression of pictures from a faded memory.
Strange and ghost-like portraits include those of Pope Benedict XVI, the American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and have titles such as The Exorcist, The Deal and Rome. Manifestly, Tuymans has an on-going interest in the impact of Roman Catholicism, notably that of the Society of Jesus on the intellectual, cultural and political history of Europe.
Jointly organized by SFMOMA and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Luc Tuymans features approximately 75 key paintings from 1978 to the present and reunites works from important series as initially set out by the artist, thus restoring intended dialogue among the works. This first U.S. retrospective of Luc Tuymans is co-curated by Madeleine Grynsztejn, Pritzker Director of the MCA, and Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston.
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