David Zwirner presents an impressive new show of paintings by Neo Rauch. In the show, “At The Well”, Rauch continues to remix tropes of history painting with surreal narratives and to seduce the viewer with graphic use of color.
The storytelling element in these paintings is ripe for investigation, like the bizarre and uncanny scene in “Der Blaue Fisch”, where a women is being rescued out of a spliced open tuna-shark fish. Villagers chime in and the stormy clouds create a dreary atmosphere. This and other works remind me of fairly tales in which a lesson is about to be learned (after the drama concludes).
Equally impressive is Rauch's bold use of color. There are a handful of monochromatic works that are punctuated by complimentary and accented colors. The overall color in “Das Horn” is maroon with highlights of bleached green and a little bright yellow. Other works such as: “Am Brunnen”, “Der Felsenwirt” and “Über den Dächern” skillfully employ limited palettes with about three main colors.
Overall, the thinly painted works operate illustratively and subconsciously- even though they have a certain rough and perhaps German-Expressiveness quality to them. Especially evident in the smaller paintings, as in “Paddler”, the surface is treated with a raw energy and speed which seems very loose in execution. With the larger works, those details of surface quality are sacrificed slightly for the sake of creating a relatively smooth and flat surface. This fits well into the type of illusion created by monumental, history paintings which Rauch most definitely alludes to.