Magazine article Artforum International

Rosa Loy

Magazine article Artforum International

Rosa Loy

Article excerpt

ENTWISTLE

"What is the flesh? What is the physical being of man? What exactly is he made of? Tell us this afternoon, Herr Hofrat, tell us exactly, and once and for all, so that we may Know" demands Hans Castorp, protagonist of Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. Unsatisfied by the Hofrat's reply--"Water"--he embarks on his own research. Swaddled in fur and wool on his sickbed, he scours volumes on anatomy, biochemistry, and pathology. Scientific facts inexorably segue into metaphysical speculation; Castorp sinks into perverse, voluptuous hallucinations that mix the cosmological, the theological, and the erotic. "Life itself?" he starts to wonder. "Was it perhaps only an infection, a sickening of matter?"

Like Castorp, the identical twins who feature in Rosa Loy's paintings inhabit a separate, hallucinatory world: a maybe utopian, maybe dystopian testing ground that is part spa, part sanatorium, part laboratory, part collective farm. It's also a distinctly antiquated place. Now resident in Leipzig, Loy was born, raised, and educated in Communist-era East Germany. Her paintings' details (dress, interior elements, etc.) are unmistakably retrospective in character. Loy's twins by turn play the parts of patient, scientist, and ancillary worker: In Unterhaltung (Conversation), 1999, one twin reclines on a couch, her eyes masked by blue goggles, her head and body encased in brown, podlike cocoons. She is undergoing some bizarre therapeutic process of incubation, mutation or gestation; her sibling's head hovers over her like the angel in a Renaissance Annunciation. In Ernte (Harvest), 2000, the twins work together in a sludge green and mustard yellow institutional kitchen, apparently bottling flames in glass jars. I n Ziichtung (Fertilization), 1998, wearing pristine lab coats and dainty blue gloves, they peer down microscopes; in Schnecken kommen (The snails are coming), 2000, the pair hoe cabbages while unpleasantly large, shell-less, mutant snails wriggle around their shiny boots. The association of biology and monstrosity recurs in Loy's outsize studies of flowers and fruit: These add something bloated and faintly menacing to the O'Keeffe formula. …

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