In the present work an army of students stand uniformly with their backs to the viewer, placed in a curiously evocative schoolroom scene. Eerie abstract forms mutate into chairs, desks, blackboards and windows, all in Rauch’s characteristic saturated, industrial colours of ochre, red, black and grey. Perhaps most striking, the ceiling of this uncanny schoolroom is absent, and instead a violent yellow and grey sky emerges, foretelling of doom, despair and darkness. Thus the schoolroom of Schule becomes a formidable dreamscape—or rather a nightmare—in which all coherent sense of certainty and knowing is lost. Rauch’s employment of strange, mysterious figures and ambiguous landscapes recall the celebrated work of Surrealist masters such as Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, for their metaphysical paintings of fragile and exotic landscapes greatly influenced Rauch’s highly iconoclastic and symbolic pictorial approach, imbuing his retro-futuristic fantasies with poignant art historical reference. While Rauch is widely celebrated as a leading artist of the New Leipzig School, his work eclipses the intellectual sphere of his native country; he is undeniably one of the most important artists of his generation. Schule powerfully illustrates Rauch’s exceptional dreamlike, hallucinatory visual language and unbounded imagination. Art historian Gottfried Boehm asserts, “Rauch’s paintings show us many rudiments, many fragments and figurations of possible worlds…Rauch’s custom of working with the memory of a pictorial story…also awakes our pleasure in getting wise to him and letting ourselves becomes totally involved in the allusions they ignite” (Gottfried Boehm cited in: Exh. Cat., Wolfsburg, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Neo Rauch – Neue Rollen. Paintings 1993-2006, 2006, p. 39).
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