Luc Tuymans (born 1958) is considered by many to be one of the most significant painters working today, and his distinctive visual style and approach to issues of history and memory He is widely credited with having contributed to the revival of painting in the 1990s. His sparsely colored, figurative works speak in a quiet, restrained, and at times unsettling voice, and are typically painted from pre-existing imagery which includes photographs and video stills.
Born and raised in Antwerp, where he continues to live and work, Tuymans draws on the historical traditions of Northern European painting as well as photography, cinema, and television. He appropriates images from a variety of sources and makes use of cropping, close-ups, framing, and sequencing to offer fresh perspectives on the medium of painting as well as larger cultural issues.
Since the late 1970s Tuymans has painted hundreds of likenesses—of himself, family members, characters from films and plays, anonymous individuals, and historical and public figures. Superficially, most of these images hew to traditional ideas of portraiture. They are representations of specific individuals that highlight the face and contain clues about the time and the subject’s character and social status. In spirit, however, Tuymans’s portraits, like all of his images, are enigmatic and contrarian, defying definitions and expectations. Of his dispassionate approach, Tuymans has said, “I don’t want to make portraits on a psychological level. I take all the ideas out of individuality and just leave the shell, the body. To make a portrait of someone on a psychological level, for me, is an impossibility. I am much more interested in the idea of masks, of creating a blindfolded space of mirrors.”
Nice. Luc Tuymans includes approximately 30 of the artist’s paintings. Tuymans, who designed the exhibition layout in collaboration with Josef Helfenstein and Toby Kamps, juxtaposes his work with selections from the museum’s permanent collection such as ancient African and Native American cultures, mummy portraits from Roman Egypt (ca 150-200 AD), an 18th-century portrait of Enlightenment philosopher and writer Denis Diderot, and modern and contemporary portraiture. Viewed together, Tuymans’s paintings and the works drawn from museum storage rooms probe the significance of the human face and form throughout the history of art.
The Menil Collection Website