We have a loose circle of artist friends who meet Friday afternoons at SFMOMA in the rooftop café. One cold February day a discussion burst out about the Luc Tuymans show in the gallery next to the café. I had not seen the show and had never heard of Luc Tuymans. But after listening to all the impassioned comments, I got up and did a quick tour of the exhibit. My opinion: Tuymans evokes the history of the 20th century, from Belgian colonialism in the Congo to Auschwitz right up to Condolezza Rice with a portrait of this statesperson.
“The Secretary of State”, 2005, oil on canvas, 18” x 24 ¼ inches Luc Tuymans
The paintings tend to gray and monochromatic but they are still 'painterly.' It is an intellectual body of work that expresses thoughts, historical facts, commentary on public events. It is probably meant to evoke feelings in the viewers related to their responses now, or in the past, to these events. I felt it was interesting but an intellectual experience rather than an emotional one. Although the show didn't interest me a whole lot, I still think Tuymans is an important painter who is taking on the conscience of the Western Colonial and asking us to think about what we've done.
In the following days such a lively discussion of the show, its reviews, and the artist followed among us on Facebook. I am not using the names of the speakers because I don't have their permission. They can comment on this blog entry if they wish to be identified.