• 20.7.07

    The Secretary of State
    (Luc Tuymans)

    «The apparent inspiration for Mr. Tuymans’s Rice portrait was the reported characterization by a Belgian politician of Ms. Rice as “strong, not unpretty.” Like Mr. Kitaj’s portrait of the cute young fascist, “The Secretary of State” evokes an erotic ambiguity: A presumably left-leaning painter is turned on by a strong, not unpretty woman who personifies policies he abhors. Sexuality complicates political thinking the way painting complicates a straightforward snapshot. The painting has a simultaneous immediacy and otherness that comes from an empirical rendering in blown-up scale of the surface data of a photograph, which itself is not a posed, official portrait but a frozen moment of reportage.

    The pervasive unease in Mr. Tuymans’s work amounts to a sublimated violence. His imagery deals with conflicts and problems obliquely: Seemingly intent on capturing the banality of evil rather than its drama, his strategy is the antithesis of the Renaissance theorist Alberti’s definition of *istoria*, which is to capture the most telling moment or episode that encapsulates the tale, and the moral lesson.»

    (David Cohen)

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