Seeing Is Believing, T Men’s Fashion Fall 2009

The first time Luc Tuymans exhibited in the United States, in 1994, he showed a painting called ”Tracing,” depicting an embroidered bouquet of flowers. Simple, pleasant enough — until you learned that the pattern was taken from a chair in which someone was brutally murdered. Typical Tuymans: his most famous piece is an empty, otherwise-anonymous room with the chilling title ”Gas Chamber.” The Belgian artist skyrocketed to the top of Europe’s contemporary art scene in the ’90s by using such banal, decontextualized images as stand-ins for some of history’s most troubled moments. When his first United States retrospective opens this week at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, the subject matter will consist of 9/11, the Holocaust and the atrocities committed in the Belgian Congo, among others. But ”it’s not all horror all the time,” insists Helen Molesworth, the co-curator of the exhibition, which will travel to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art next year. ”When you stand in front of his paintings, you can’t believe how beautiful they are. They have an eerie quality of developing before your eyes, like a photograph in a darkroom tray, and an uncanny sense of light and fluidity. They make you think about how just about anything in our culture can be turned into a pretty picture, and how used to it we are.”


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