Luc Tuymans: beneath the skin

On 15 May 2019, by Vincent Noce

The Palazzo Grassi is featuring his art of avoidance before a retrospective scheduled this summer at Tilburg, in the Netherlands.

Luc Tuymans (b. 1958), Simulation, 2007, Pinault Collection.
© Palazzo Grassi, photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti

Luc Tuymans is not a very good painter. In fact, he might well say that he doesn't want to be. The Palazzo Grassi is highlighting his art of avoidance before a retrospective scheduled this summer in Tilburg (Netherlands). The Antwerp artist's trademark is apparently trivial scenes that conceal horrendous things. His blurry, colourless painting seems to require a text. Fortunately, a leaflet provides an explanation for each picture, because otherwise it would be impossible to guess that these boneless pine trees, on the floor of the cortile, evoke the ones surrounding a concentration camp. The same goes for an ordinary-looking face, which turns out to be that of Albert Speer. Or a KKK leader. Or a Japanese cannibal. As a man of Flanders, the artist has two obsessions: the original sin of Nazism and carnival, which come together in the murky scene of "München".

The exhibition is entitled "La Peau" (The Skin): an obvious reference to the novel by Malaparte, a writer who explored the sham, and made lies a means of survival. The painter makes a detour via the latter's fortress in Capri, where film director Jean-Luc Godard shot Le Mépris. However, his weak technique, even more perceptible in his large works, hampers these semantic sequences. His abstract works from the 2000s are more moving than his still lifes, which struggle to rise above the anecdotal.

Palazzo Grassi
until 6 January 2020, Venice.

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