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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Neo Rauch
B. 1960
GUT GUT
signed and dated 99
oil on canvas
249.9 by 200 cm. 98 3/8 by 78 3/4 in.
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Provenance

David Zwirner, New York

Private Collection, San Francisco

Private Collection 

Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

New York, David Zwirner, Neo Rauch, February - March 1999

Leipzig, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst; Munich, Haus der Kunst; and Zurich, Kunsthalle Zürich, Neo Rauch. Randgebiet, December 2000 - August 2001, p. 11, illustrated in colour; and p. 139, illustrated

Catalogue Note

An enigmatic scene of spatial and temporal disjunction, Gut Gut invites the viewer into the mysterious and dream-like world of Neo Rauch. Executed in 1999, this particular work is emblematic of a distinctive theme central to Rauch’s oeuvre of the 1990s: that of the stereotypical socialist worker, steadfastly immersed in industrious civic activity. The ‘good’ citizens that populate Rauch’s paintings from this era are reminiscent of an East German society that no longer exists, and only endure through Rauch’s own memory and the dream sequences of his paintings. Included in Rauch’s first major retrospective in 2001 held at the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig, Haus der Kunst Munich and Kunsthalle Zurich, Gut Gut depicts an exemplary male worker performing a seemingly functional task in the foreground. Yet as we pause to reflect on the scene presented, the painting’s focus becomes ambiguous and the visual cues we look to for assistance simply exacerbate narrative confusion. Equipped with various tools Rauch’s worker appears to be surveying neatly designated plots of land; however closer scrutiny renders any direct plotline utterly unclear. Large, abstruse objects and hovering comic-stripesque text ultimately deliver a Surrealist landscape that is distinctly East German in tone. The repetition of the word ‘GUT’ reinforces the ideal of the ‘good worker’ that was promoted by the German Democratic Republic, while the vibrant, matt colours are reminiscent of the products made during this era. However via a careful blending of American Pop art, Socialist Realism, and Surrealist abstraction, Gut Gut is utterly unique to Rauch’s ambivalent and dream-like pictorial world.

Although the spectre of his East German childhood is consistently present in this painting, Rauch does not present historical facts or clear cut narratives. Rather, he uses the genre of painting to process these experiences, creating ambiguous scenes that deny easy recourse to established meaning. As Robert Hobbs has observed of Rauch’s work: “Neither surreal or hyper-real, this art is remarkable for its interplays of types and conventions as well as its ricocheting references that circulate both inside and outside it to discern the confounding and questionable role that the many layers of the past can potentially play in the creation of the present and the future” (Robert Hobbs, ‘Neo Rauch’s Purposive Ambiguities’ in: Exh. Cat., Malaga, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Neo Rauch, 2005, p. 83).

A kind of retro-technology features prominently in Gut Gut, alluding to a future that is recognisably already in the past. The man in the foreground carries a heavy briefcase, tool kit, or container for technological equipment. He rests his right hand on a sort of pneumatic drill that we see another figure using in the distance. Recalling the sequential scenes of comic strips, the background figures would normally aid in completing a narrative; here, however, this clone-like motif adds to the confusion and bestows a resounding sense of déjà vu. The atmospheric tension inherent in Gut Gut epitomises the effect of observation that Rauch aims for in his work, which he elaborates in the following statement “Perception via the corner of the eye is actually, in its poetic substance, like a dream. Everyone has experienced it. You perceive something in your peripheral vision, turn towards it, and it is gone” (Neo Rauch in conversation with Klaus Werner, in: Exh. Cat., Leipzig, Galerie Eigen + Art (and travelling), Manöver, 1997, p. 16). Gut Gut is a compelling example of Neo Rauch's facture, as engaging and beguiling in aesthetic, as it is powerful and contemplative in mood.

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London