Opening on February 14, David Zwirner is pleased to present new work
by Belgian artist Luc Tuymans. The artist is currently the focus of a retrospective
traveling from Mucsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest, Hungary
(closes February 10) to Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (March 2-May
12) and Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland (May 30-August
17). Tuymans has recently been the subject of one-person exhibitions
at Kabinet für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremerhaven, Germany (2007); MuHKA
Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp, Belgium (2007);
Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal (2006); Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain
(MAMCO), Geneva, Switzerland (2006); and the Tate Modern,
London, England (2004). In 2009, the Wexner Center for the Arts
and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will mount the artist’s first
US retrospective, which will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art and the
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
A pivotal figure in the field of contemporary painting, Tuymans has explored
diverse themes ranging from the colonial history of Belgium, the
effects of images from 9/11, to the elusive power of the Jesuit order. In
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his seventh solo exhibition at the gallery, the artist will focus his exacting gaze on the globally influential, yet distinctly
American phenomenon of Disney. Founded in the early 1920s as a small animation studio, The Walt Disney Company
has become one of the largest media and entertainment corporations in the world. A conscious purveyor of family
values and the virtue of American industry, Disney has vigorously defended its role in the creation of what the artist has
termed a “spiritual utopia.” With characteristic intensity, Tuymans explores the transformation of entertainment into
ideology, while at the same time offers a critique of the hegemonic control of economic and cultural capital and the
implicit dangers in a reality based on the production of magic.
The exhibition will include eight new paintings and eight new drawings, in which Tuymans puts forth the image of a
disintegrating utopia. Largely depicted in flat, muted hues, an uneasy sense of nostalgia pervades, which shuns the
obvious and circumvents easy interpretation. In a key painting entitled Turtle, we are confronted by the looming image
of a mechanical float in Disneyland’s famous, now-defunct attraction, the Main Street Electrical Parade. Divorced
from the bright lights and whirring excitement of the parade, the familiar childhood favorite is rendered gruesome
and hollow by Tuymans’ broad brushstrokes and anemic colors. Clear from a distance, the image dissolves into abstraction
upon close view.
Integral to the artist’s practice is the reliance on existing visual materials, including drawings, photographs, and film
stills. Referencing a 1960s promotional film, the work W presents a shadowy vision of Walt Disney before his original,
unrealized plans for an expansive residential project known as EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).
Employing discomfort as a formal device, Tuymans crops the corporate leader’s actual body from view, thus raising
questions of control, labor, and invisibility, while simultaneously suggesting a latent grim reality that undermines the
proposed fantasy ideals. Large drawings continue to explore the two-dimensional plans for EPCOT, which consisted
of a complex tunnel system for covertly supplying the imagined, carefully controlled community; through repetition the
images metamorphose from practical proposals into disassociated patterning.
A striking aura of concealment emerges from the collection of works in the exhibition, as Tuymans explores the history
of Disney’s adamant and complex entertainment agenda. For example, one of the smaller paintings depicts
a set from The Carousel of Progress, an attraction that Disney developed for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair.
An unabashed celebration of the history of electricity and American domestic improvements, the attraction notably
depended on theatrical scrims to hide multiple rotating stages. The painting and exhibition’s shared title, Forever,
seemingly refers to the endurance of an ideology and a timeless, fairytale paradigm. Rife with paradox, it simultaneously
proposes the practical opposites – anachronism, mortality, and dissolution. In these works, plans fail, memories
fade, and perception is clouded by illusionism.
A fully illustrated catalogue will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.