221110: Haus der Kunst Tronies. Marlene Dumas and the Old Masters

Haus der Kunst Tronies. Marlene Dumas and the Old Masters 29.10.10 until 06.02.11 Faces – Countenance or Mask The viewer is responsible for that what he sees in a painting, Marlene Dumas asserted. Seeing is judging. Every type of seeing is a learnt form of seeing, an individual process. According to Dumas we are not only responsible for our judgements, but also for our misjudgements and our prejudices. The artist’s pictures offer the friction surface, which in turn allows us to interpret the pictures as we see them. The pictures presented in “Tronies. Marlene Dumas and the Old Masters” in the Haus der Kunst, focus on faces: faces of models, politicians, philosophers, art historical figures, as well as anonymous faces. Among them: angry, scared, sleeping, mocking, and laughing ones. The human face, which, on the one hand is distinguishable, open and fragile, and on the other mask-like and withdrawn provokes judgements and prejudices – or, as the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, who is cited in the catalogue, once said: “The skin of a face is usually naked, denuded… The face reveals a certain poverty; proof is the attempt to mask this poverty by taking up certain expressions or postures.” The people in the Dumas' works also take on certain postures: such as the model Naomi Campbell. Her head thrown back, her eyes half closed: the picture questions everything that is associated with the well-known model. The same applies to other portraits; such as the one of Osama bin Laden. Visitors might be tempted to think that Al-Qaeda leaders don’t resemble the devil incarnate. Marlene Dumas uses pictures published in the media, primarily press- and newspaper photographs. That means she selects, she doesn’t stage. That distinguishes her substantially from the Old Masters with which she is confronted in the exhibition: etchings, paintings and sketches by Peter Breughel, Frans Floris, Hedrick Goltzius, Rembrandt, Rubens. They all worked with a model or with a mirror and their own likeness. The presentation in Munich focuses on a certain type of picture painted by the Old Dutch Masters, so-called tronies, and character studies, created to practice sketching extreme types of people or states of mind. Apart from the high quality of these pictures the juxtaposition of the faces with those by Marlene Dumas works well: both, the Old Masters and the artist are concerned with existential psychological conditions. In her own reduced form of painting Marlene Dumas succeeds in creating highly sensitive pictures, which narrate about a very careful and human attitude towards facial expressions. In the confrontation of portraits of different eras there are interesting differences – especially with regard to the selection of the characters. Whichever differences we want to recognize – that is also something we are responsible for. Astrid Mayerle Haus der Kunst 80538 Munich, Prinzregentenstrasse 1 Tel.: +49 89 222655 Fax: + 49 89 2913424 email: info@grossekunstausstellungmuenchen.de http://www.grossekunstausstellungmuenchen.de Opening hours: daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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