Monday, September 30, 2019

Neo Rauch and Contemporary Art - Zaldastani

As artists have always been a reflection of their relative cultures and eras, it seems sensical to assert that contemporary artists nowadays can express themselves in ways that artists of the past might not have been able to. Our world today is extraordinarily complex and messy. The rise of the internet and social media have made the transfer of information and opinions more readily available than ever. The ads we see on billboards and commercials we watch on television are bright, loud, and bordering obnoxious. Thus, contemporary artists have much to reflect and comment on through their art works. When deciding what to concentrate on for this post, I decided to look up a list of the most influential contemporary artists. Reigning in as number one, according to some arbitrary site, was German painter Neo Rauch. While I normally steer clear of such rankings, after looking through portfolios of his work I was convinced he had earned his esteemed position. Born in 1960, Rauch uses a combination of media, including paint, marker and pen to create his works. Rauch’s paintings do not conform to one style but rather can be characterized by their breathtaking combination of “figurative imagery and surrealist abstraction.” Rauch himself hesitates to classify his works as surrealist, but rather comments that he is merely inspired by surrealists Giorgio de Chirico and RenĂ© Magritte, and by dreams and imagination.

Rauch mixes his own personal history with the politics of industry, using  palettes of bold, complementary colors, and recurrent motifs, including the integration of organic and non-organic elements (steel figures against bright trees) as well as references to the music (flute player) and manual labor (widely defined). Scale is often intentionally arbitrary and lacks consistent perspective, almost alluding to different periods of time or even dimensions of existence. His natural and industrial settings are both familiar and foreign, just as the world around us appears today. Rauch’s artwork truly embodies what it means to be a notable artist today: He found his niche and voice not in one classic “style,” but rather through a seamless combination of different styles and colors. From far away, his artwork may seem unremarkable, but looking closer, the details and vivid imagery are undeniable and captivating. We are invited to understand the wild stories that might be behind each painting, just as we are invited to assign meaning to anything we encounter in our daily lives. The use of vibrant colors is not obnoxious, but seemingly grounded in what we can perceive as natural from other elements of his paintings. 

Today, whenever we are presented with a piece of art, be it a sculpture, architecture, paintings, or a combination, we ask ourselves, “What is art?” “What is art’s function?” and or “Why does it matter?” But artists nowadays can create art that challenges our expectations and artistic conventions. Contemporary artists have the artistic freedom and power to question traditional ideas of what constitutes art and how art is defined and made, and simultaneously create a dialogue with (or rejection of) the styles and movements preceding them. Rauch does just this in his explorational and illustrative paintings, imploring his viewers to make connections to the past and also the future and unknown.  

“I have to provide it [the painting] with everything it needs to be viable—a functioning circulation system, a support structure that keeps it in balance in relation to gravity, and so on… The painting’s personnel automatically embrace these efforts; my figures swing along with the compositional flow and they only rebel where it is necessary for dramaturgic reasons.” - Neo Rauch, 2018

Works Cited:

David Zwirner:


Art Net:

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