By May 1938, Sigmund Freud’s time in Vienna was rapidly coming to an end. In the wake of the Anschluss, the Jewish doctor, having received multiple visits form the Nazi Gestapo, decided to seek exile in London. Mere days before fleeing, Freud invited Edmund Engelman, a younger engineer and photographer, to catalogue the Freud home, as well as Freud’s office and consulting rooms at Berggasse 19. Photographing the mezzanine, Engelman relied mostly on natural light, shooting 150 photographs as documentation of the place where Freud pioneered the field of psychoanalysis. Engleman's documentation was to serve as map for Freud when furnishing his new apartment, but also a memory of a time now passed.
Of Freud Drawings Longo states, "What I was doing in the Freud Drawings was a psychoanalysis of Freud's apartment. The aspect that really shocked me was the awareness that this man, Freud, was sitting in this apartment, dealing with the deep and dark abysses of our souls, while the Nazis were running around outside, actually doing these dark things" (Robert Longo cited in: Martin Hentschel & Klaus Albrecht Schrder, The Freud Drawings: Robert Longo, New York 2003, p. 6). Fascinated by the historic dimensions of the photographs, Longo was profoundly moved by the references to the Jewish genocide and to the crimes of the National Socialists instilled in Freud’s photographs. Central to Longo’s oeuvre is often a critique of the ecstasies and horrors of the postmodern society, the struggle for political and economic power that in turn affects the body politic.
A prominent protagonist of appropriation, Robert Longo’s photorealist charcoal studies turn towards the intimacy of drawing while engaging with deeply problematic histories. In Longo’s precise rendering, the warm velour-esque textures and dramatic contrasts of the fleecy charcoal endow the image with a luminosity that is neither unnerving nor comforting, but which certainly imparts to the viewer the cultural freight of the objects under scrutiny. Working light to dark, the white in Longo’s strikingly detailed drawing is the white of the paper, evoking an immediate materiality that contradicts the ominous raven-black pigment. Untitled (Triptych- Peephole, Consulting Room Door, Head From Shelf 1938) evokes distances, presenting a world of alienation from which man is expelled. A stunning example from a powerful and succinct series, the present work ought to be ranked among the great twentieth century history paintings of our time.
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