Peter Schjeldahl

Neo Rauch, Die Flamme, 2007

“Conservatism takes grim, or not so grim, satisfaction in demonstrations of human folly. It has a major pictorial philosopher in Rauch, who calmly implicates himself, and art, in a vision of futility as destiny. “Die Flamme,” which seems quite explicitly a metaphorical self-portrait, presents a riding-jacketed man, in a landscape, striding the length of a long wooden box of painting materials. He carries semaphorelike flags. His legs are lashed to planks that extend upward to form an X. The flame of the title is a pale flare in the sky, over the distant horizon. The image might be read as an allegory of inspiration contingent on an acceptance of grotesque handicaps. Or it might not. But I think I’ve never seen an excellent painting that is so masochistically cheerless, to the point of revelling in a contemplation of impotence. I would like to despise the artist for this, but his visual poetry is too persuasive. Present-day reality is a lot more like one of his pictures than I wish it were.”  –  Peter Schjeldahl, “Paintings for Now:  Neo Rauch at the Met.”The New Yorker June 2007, and reprinted in Let’s See – Writings on Art from The New Yorker, published by Thames & Hudson.

An extensive article on Peter Schjeldahl’s writings on art by Sanford Schwartz can be found at The New York Review of Books here.

Also the March edition of Frieze Magazine published an edited version of a lecture given at the School of Visual Arts in New York on 18 November 2010, as part of a series organized by David Levi Strauss and sponsored by the MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department. Read it – here.

Posted by Robert Armstrong

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