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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Neo Rauch
B. 1960
TAKT 
signed, titled and dated 99 
oil on canvas
248.2 by 199cm.; 98 by 78 1/2 in.
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Provenance

Galerie Eigen + Art, Leipzig

Private Collection, Los Angeles

Zwirner & Wirth, New York

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005

Exhibited

New York, David Zwirner Gallery, Neo Rauch, 2000

Leipzig, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst; Munich, Haus der Kunst; and Zurich, Kunsthalle Zürich, Neo Rauch. Randgebiet, 2000-01, p. 102, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Neo Rauch paints scenarios that are enigmatic and ambiguous; he conjures fantastical and simultaneously unsettling spaces where little adds-up or makes sense. The disunity of the collective compositional elements that comprise his work imparts pictorial atmospheres that are utterly singular within contemporary painting. In the work at hand, the painting’s title, Takt, hovers upside-down in a vertical speech bubble – in a style evocative of Hergé’s Tintin comic strips – while a man sitting at a piano appears to receive instruction from a female figure who stands and points a long baton towards a faceless yellow metronome. The title thus seems to inform a corresponding narrative: takt – or beat in English – does indeed evoke a musical theme, and yet, as we begin to doubt whether the blue object at which the male figure sits is even a piano, any hint of narrative logic dissipates and dissolves. Framed by striped curtains, populated by floating shapes coloured in jarring high key-tones, and depicting a nocturnal forest-landscape in which a large tubular and Léger-esque tree takes centre stage, Rauch’s composition bears the hereditary traits of Surrealism. Nonetheless, as the typical ‘workmen’ figures dressed in their blue overalls attest, this is a landscape rooted in a lost era, an era that belongs to a nation divided following the Second World War: Rauch’s paintings reside in an imaginary realm trapped in the bygone workers’ state of East Germany.

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.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London