„The reality of Luc Tuymans’s work is almost ‘twee’, pleasing images of a lampshade or leopard-skin rug pass quite comfortably as aesthetic totems; it’s only their cognitive association with the Holocaust, or atrocities of the Belgian Congo, that encapsulates the true banality of evil - the unspeakable horror in a teacup, the monstrous potential of an empty bath. Luc Tuymans’s paintings consciously fall desperately short of the iconic, becoming vestiges posed as counterfeit emblems for that which cannot be conveyed (…) The simplicity of Luc Tuymans’s composition alludes to a pure and uninterrupted world order; the ephemeral light, with which the canvas seems to glow, places it as an epic masterpiece of metaphysical and spiritual contemplation. In response to unimaginable horror, Luc Tuymans offers the sublime. A gaping magnitude of impotency, which neither words nor paintings could ever express. (…) If media images inadequately depict the horrors of reality, then Luc Tuymans’s paintings are even more disturbingly detached. Often taking his imagery from published photos (of war, violence, subjugation), the paintings are the antithesis of this historic iconography: dull tones, vague, nondescript scenes, stripped of emotional propaganda.”
For the first time, Belgium is hosting a major retrospective devoted to its renowned artist Luc Tuymans. Following a series of US cities, Brussels is the first – and only – European city where the exhibition, a co-production by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts, can be seen. In their selection the curators have highlighted a number of series, each of which was conceived and developed as a coherent whole by Tuymans. These have been specially brought together again for the exhibition from (mostly private) collections all over the world. In total there are some 75 works in the exhibition, offering a chronological overview of 30 years of creative work. Via topics such as the Second World War, (post-)colonialism, and 9/11, subjects such as violence, history and nationalism, perception and surveillance are addressed. Tuymans raises the issue of the immediacy of the ever-present, consumable image. His subdued colour palette plays a prominent role in this context, as does his unique, deceptively impassive but expressive style. For the first time, the exhibition offers an opportunity to see the Super 8, Super 16 and 35 mm films that Tuymans shot in the early days of his career; alongside photographs and images from popular culture, these continue to bear fruit in his working methods today.
Luc Tuymans - Retrospective is organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus. Generous support has been provided by Bruce and Martha Atwater. Additional support has been provided by Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, by Flanders House, the new cultural forum for Flanders (Belgium) in the United States and by the Flemish Government.
I never saw the morning ‘til I stayed up all night I never saw the sunshine ‘til you turned out the light I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long I never heard the melody, until I needed a song.
I never saw the white line, ‘til I was leaving you behind I never knew I needed you ‘til I was caught up in a bind I never spoke ‘I love you’ ‘til I cursed you in vain, I never felt my heartstrings until I nearly went insane.
I never saw the east coast ‘til I move to the west I never saw the moonlight until it shone off your breast I never saw your heart ‘til someone tried to steal, tried to steal it away I never saw your tears until they rolled down your face.