Friday, 23 January 2009

Muntean & Rosenblum
Interim Art, London
13th May 2003

Untitled (The day doesn’t promise …), 2003
Acrylic on Canvas 230 x 280 cm

My first visit to Maureen Paley’s gallery in the East end of London. An interesting exhibition by another ‘Tag Team’ of artists, this duo coming from Austria. Downstairs was a DVD video installation (To Die For..) and a large silver-point and charcoal cartoon in the Renaissance tradition. Upstairs there was a gallery with five large paintings. This was my pick of the paintings, a contemporary version of Manet’s Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe. I liked the way it refers to the original without being slavish in the quotes it makes. I don’t think it is intended to carry a meaningful reference to Manet’s painting.

The painting floats in a white band with rounded corners that reminds me of seaside postcards. In place of the postcard caption, there is a piece of cod-philosophical text. Hence, the full title of the painting is Untitled (The day doesn't promise us more than the day, and we know it has a certain duration and an end. We would wait in vain for what we didn't know we were waiting for. And in the end there would be nothing but a slow falling of night). It makes a good epitaph for a generation for whom there is no glorious after-life to wait for and a new pair of ‘Converse’ trainers is as good as it is going to get.

When I first saw the works I presumed they used their own models (like they obviously do for the DVD) and photographed them. I have since learnt from Saatchi’s web site that they

“create their own Frankenstein models from the pages of trendy magazines (an arm from iD, a head from Vogue), they repaint their collages into scenes of freakish vacuity. Framing them as giant comic book excerpts (originally Muntean & Rosenblum published their paintings as comics), the underscoring texts lend a sense of nihilist dandyism, but are actually taken at random from trashy novels.”[1]

Paint is quite thin (acrylic remember) and the tones are distinct. Each band of tone made up of repetitive horizontal marks with a small brush, there is no blending. Technique reminds me of cartoon illustration with the figures in strong bright colours whilst the background is more muted and blurred..

I have now seen their work a few times and whilst I still think this is a powerful piece, I believe that their paintings fall into the same category as the lifestyle they comment on. The impact is quickly over and in that sense they have more in common with illustration than with painting. There is clearly a melancholic aspect to the ‘loss of culture’ that they portray and understand the need to reference ‘history painting’ but think their video pieces do it more successfully than cartoon paintings done on a monumental scale.

Recorded in my notes that the price was £23,000.00

©blackdog 2009

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