Subscribe to our RSS feed:

RSS Feed Button

Marlene Dumas’ "Against the Wall" at David Zwirner Gallery
1  2  3  4  5  6  

by Jerry Saltz

Marlene Dumas is one of the two or three most successful female artists alive, if you judge by prices. I’ve never reviewed her work, because I find nothing in it to get excited about no matter how hard I look. She takes slam-dunk subject matter (sex, death, strippers, apartheid) and turns it rote and optically dreary with a brushy Tuymans-like approach to her figures. She scribbles around nicely in the background, dispersing loosey-goosey neo-Expressionistic brushstrokes that do, enticingly, seem to change direction in mid-stroke; she pools gooey paint here and there in alluring ways. But when she gets to the central image -- usually based on a news photograph -- she exercises barely any imagination, risking little, adding nothing, ending up with an uninspired likeness of the original photo. Her world goes from being fabricated to being familiar; experimentation ceases; the painting goes dead and turns psychologically stunted and politically obvious. She tells us what we already know: that there is cruelty, misogyny, suffering and racism in this world. But she offers little insight into them.