On a mild summer afternoon this viewer casually entered one of the galleries of the National Art Museum in Bucharest. My intentions were mostly aiming at the local art collections, but the temporary exhibition on the lower floor was alluring: it featured very prominently a large poster of the well-known 1931 Bela Lugosi “Dracula”. It turned out that the generous space was host to the itinerant “New Black Romanticism” exhibit that presently tours German towns, Bucharest and Prague.
It is with a bit of reluctance that this viewer begins by saying that the most impressive thing about “New Black Romanticism” is the curation. While many pieces are indeed quite striking by themselves, the effort to collect and integrate them was impressive. Christoph Tannert, Miriam Barnitz and Robert Seidel did impressive work here. The explanations were, at least for me, surprisingly clear and devoid of the pseudo-intellectual smugness that infects many other exhibitions. While interpretations can and indeed differ, I found them at the very least pertinent and often quite informative.
34 artists are featured in “New Black Romanticism”. A few stood out for this viewer. High up the list is the stunning work of Anders Grønlien, “Killer in sunset”. For me, though, the painting is more ambivalent than the relative simple suggestion of the title and the info snippet provided by the curators. The haunting, undoubtedly male figure holding the knife can be more than a simple symbol of violence and killing. It can be a shaman, an oath-taker, a man warning the viewer about disturbing his peaceful valley. There is much doubt in the holding of the blade and this makes the painting so interesting, in addition to the excellent contrast between the hunter, the forrest and the almost-surreal, burning sky.
Bertram Hasenauer’ s hooded figures deserve a quick mention. They blend very well with the general theme of the exhibition, making a play on contemporaneity, its fears, anxieties and exceedingly vanishing anonymity. Another brief mention goes to Krištof Kintera and his polyurethane depiction of nothingness, which made me think of a commentary on consumerism and ecology, but I might have missed his intention completely. I was also not sure that the placement of his work at the base of a column entirely does justice to the work.
Of Sándor Szász’s pieces, I was most struck by K-141. The two almost-alien figures dragging or pulling what appears to be a dead mammal are almost lost under the dominating presence of the decaying, brooding machine-mouth in the foreground. Colours are visceral and the sky bodes nothing but evil to come. The earth is scorched, like in some of the best works on trench warfare. There is little hope in whatever the two characters do, but they struggle on. That is all we have, in the end.
By Guest Reviewer