- Neo Rauch
- signed, titled and dated 99
- oil on canvas
Private Collection, Los Angeles
Zwirner & Wirth, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005
Leipzig, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst; Munich, Haus der Kunst; and Zurich, Kunsthalle Zürich, Neo Rauch. Randgebiet, 2000-01, p. 102, illustrated in colour
Executed in 1999, this painting (alongside its counterparts from Rauch’s oeuvre) betrays an attachment to an old ideal, an obsolete world haunted by historical trauma. Arriving late to a party of East German artists – including Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Marcus Lüpertz, A. R. Penck, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter – who began working through these dark memories during the 1950s and 60s, Rauch articulates his work in the vernacular of East German suffering. The colours evoke those familiar to products made during the rule of the East German Socialist Unity Part (SED), while the insistence on industry and farming, evidence of doing or making is symptomatic of, to quote German philosopher Gernot Böhme, “a pictorial world at the historical moments of its demolition” (Gernot Böhme, ‘After-Images. On the Historical Place of Neo Rauch’s Paintings’ in: Exh. Cat., Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Neo Rauch: Paintings 1993-2003, 2007, p. 50).
At their core however, these paintings are mercilessly artificial. They embody a collection of ciphers and quotations of the biographical and the historical that ultimately coalesce to form unfathomable puzzles. Trapped in a groundhog day of scrambled sign and symbol, Rauch’s worker-landscapes of the 1990s stutter and start to form traces of a past that are essentially bogus and spiritually bankrupt. Although containing elements that cry out to be read and recognised – from the present work’s apparent evocation of a music lesson, to the curtained interior and hovering UFO/geometric elements – the more you read the less you understand. Indeed, at the heart of Rauch’s extraordinary figurative practice is really an art of pure abstraction.