What I'd really like to do is talk about the David exhibit, but that's hard, so it will have to wait until I have the energy. Fortunately Artkrush just came out with a new issue today, focusing on new(ish) German painting. One of the articles, right under a skanky American Apparel ad, is an interview with Mark Coetzee, curator of the Rubell Family Collection. As the introduction notes, a selection of work by Leipzig painters from the collection is currently on view at Mass MoCA, where I saw it over the weekend. Here's the blurb from the website:
Life After Death presents the country’s foremost collection of paintings from the New Leipzig School – a collection built by the Rubell Family in Miami and presented in its entirety for the first time at MASS MoCA. Based in Leipzig, these painters breathe new life into the East German tradition of social realist figure painting with enigmatic narratives and surrealist overtones. The New Leipzig School is the 21st century’s first bona fide artistic phenomenon. Exhibition includes work by: Tilo Baumgartel, Tim Eitel, Martin Kobe, Neo Rauch, Christoph Rückhaberle, David Schnell, and Matthias Weischer.
While I wouldn't claim to be an authority, I'm not sure how accurate it is to say that any of these aside from Rauch draw upon socialist realism, though I may not have caught everything in the exhibit. Tim Eitel, who interested me more than any of the others, owes a lot more to formal modernist modes than the art of the Soviet Union, for instance. Similarly, Matthias Weischer may paint drab interiors that might summon up thoughts of the decay of the DDR, but the references, however one takes them, to high modernist abstraction and the grid in his paintings point away from anything in the history of East Germany's official styles.
I was intrigued by some of these paintings, especially Eitel's, but not always completely engaged. I know everyone thinks Neo Rauch is the man, but the three canvases by him didn't do much for me. The combination of drabness and what felt like forced zaniness had a certain novelty, I suppose, but mostly felt empty to me. I might have lingered more and given them more thought, except that I knew that Cai Guo-Qiang's "Inopportune" installation awaited. And really, how a bunch of morose Germans going to compete with this?
I mean, awesome. Think about it: your date wants to go to an art museum, but you want to check out an action flick. If you're in North Adams between now and October, you don't have to choose! Along with the above "Stage One", there's a video depicting a car with exploding fireworks coming out of it driving superimposed over Times Square at night, with onlookers (naturally) oblivious. There's more, but those alone were enough. Great fun.