Magazine article Artforum International

Neo Rauch: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Magazine article Artforum International

Neo Rauch: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Article excerpt

"His art is uniquely his own because it springs from his dreams." So claims the Metropolitan Museum of Art's introductory wall text for German painter Neo Rauch's recent exhibition "Neo Rauch at the Met: para," a show installed in the gallery where the museum has lately begun exhibiting contemporary artists (Rauch's is the third installment, following Tony Oursler and Kara Walker). Thus Rauch, the most prominent of the Leipzig painters, is implicitly aligned by the Met with the Surrealists whose work hangs just a few rooms away (their imagery was also, notoriously, determined by the subconscious). But the juxtaposition is precarious; it disregards arguably more significant influences, primarily Sots Arts' caricaturing of the uncritical celebration of Soviet communism, but also the stylings of his elder countrymen Jorg Immendorf, Sigmar Polke, A. R. Penck, et al.

Mostly purged from "para"'s fourteen canvases is the overt strangeness on which Rauch has forged his reputation. Though bright colors do appear throughout, an autumnal palette of yellows, reds, and browns dominates, imbuing the majority of these paintings with the look and feel of fading memories, evocations of the past. While in the past Rauch's imagery often conjured the idealized industrialized world depicted in midcentury East German and Soviet propaganda, here he reaches further back; the works feature figures and mise-enscenes that mostly seem plucked from the eighteenth or nineteenth century, although iconography of a more recent vintage occasionally materializes too.

Sometimes Rauch's past is laced with the transcendent, as in Gold Mine (all works 2007), in which peasants labor near a hypnotically shimmering crevice in the landscape. Occasionally it roils with unrest, as in Vorot (Suburb), with its flag-burning sidewalk crowd. …

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