Wednesday, October 21, 2009


(Raoul de Keyser, Hill, 1981)

The Raoul de Keyser show at David Zwirner consists of two rooms of drawings from 1979-1982, and one with recent small paintings. The work has a very human quality, presenting delicate forms described in thin layers. It’s evident that the artist has patiently germinated the shapes, not only on the surface of the canvases, but as sculptures; the rectangles are particular and intimate, and the canvas wraps around the stretchers like a present. Yet none of this is precious.

But the installation: there’s so much air in this antiseptic space, you feel like you’ve entered gallery purgatory.

Purgatory: a place of purification on the way to heaven. Sounds like the word “purge” is in there. So, here I go.

Belgium. Raoul de Keyser is from Belgium.

I have a personal connection to the country because I spent a hunk of my childhood there among an old and dying generation of self-described Wallons. This big-bossomed crowd was quite vocal (in French) about their deep disdain toward the Flemish, their language and culture, which in the 70s, had just become dominant. Their prejudice lodged itself somewhere deep in my subconscious mind. Sluice.

Luc Tuymans. I assume he’s Flemish, so I’ve decided not to like his work, which I’ve never seen except for in books.

Raoul de Keyser, judging from my praise above, has got to be a French-speaking Belgian. A Real Belgian.

Francis Alys. I bet he’s Flemish, but I like his work. Problem.

Bert Teunissen. I love his photographs (that's one above), which act as a Wallon Family Album for me. But I think he’s Flemish. Wait, he’s from the Netherlands. That’s ok.

James Ensor. He must be French-speaking because he’s old. Dead, in fact. Although I don’t like the work all that much, I’ve got to tip my hat to it.

Magritte. Good for Belgium, good for me.

Jacques Brel. Score for our team. Hey Luc, seems like we’re winning this one.

(Flag of Wallonia)