From November 15, 2011 to January 12, 2012 – Levy Galerie
This German painter who lives and works in Berlin is no doubt one of the finest artists of his generation. Given the general mediocrity of current art, herded into an inane gaiety, this may sound like lukewarm praise at best. So be it. But then what is the difference between his work and that of the Neo-Expressionists?
He is one of the rare artists in these first pages of the twenty-first century to manifest real emotive power combined with symbolic vision. Not that of an Anselm Kiefer, whose sweep takes in both myth and history, and covers a vast field of cultural references and pictorial techniques. In Neumann’s work, the approach is, so to speak, reversed. His central motif is human time: waiting, the quotidian, non-communication, the pessimistic alienation to which a history of great suffering has reduced the human image. His characters have no psychology, no individuality in the classic sense; they are shadows, figures, silhouettes, incarnations of a certain human condition that has gone so far as to reach the point of facelessness. We are a long way here from Francis Bacon’s Aechylian furies and his transformation of flesh into meat. Taking refuge in an inhabited soliloquy, Neumann’s anonymous figures reflect an immense visual power. The collective psyche has imploded : all that remains are these FACELESS figures, these flat bodies that seem, in this bare space, about to lose speech, to gutter and go out, to be swallowed up by silence. They are the extreme limit of our modern and universal rootlessness. We look at them the way we listen to a voice grow hushed.