Friday, December 17, 2010

Friends, Fiends, Fine: Otto Dix Q&A out in today's National Post

You know who came to mind for me when I was trying to think of contemporary artists who continue the tradition of Otto Dix? Ryan Trecartin, mostly because he seems to make even people he loves look kind of horrible. Also, because of the social critique family to which they can both belong. I ask Montreal Museum of Fine Arts curator Anne Grace about these kinds of things in today's National Post, because the MMFA has a massive exhibition of Dix's art on at the moment. Here's an excerpt:

Q Otto Dix’s paintings are stunning, but they can also be kind of horrific, even when depicting people Dix loved. Why?

A We can’t separate Dix from the era in which he lived, and he lived through the atrocities of the First World War [as a German soldier]. So the exhibition, which covers the period from the First World War to the beginning of the Second World War, is completely informed by this experience — it colours everything he sees.

As one critic, Sabine Rewald, put it, Otto Dix and other artists of the era were “injecting bile into their paintings as a way of coming back from the dead.” They had seen such horrors that they couldn’t ever get back the idealism they had going into the war. Everything they saw was through this lens of the extremes of humanity in the 20th century.

Q How does Dix’s work relate to our own day?

A It certainly relates. We opened this exhibition at the end of September, exactly the same time our government was talking about how to compensate soldiers who had been affected by more recent wars. All these questions of war are very much part of our everyday lives.

But Dix isn’t a moralist; he’s not necessarily an anti-war artist. What he does is present us with images of what he lived through, what he experienced. When we present his art today, we’re invited to look at this harsh reality that affected Germans like him but that represents as well the political situation today in Afghanistan and other countries.

You can read the rest (and see more nice pics) over here at the Post.

Because she's a historical curator, Grace declined to name any contemporary artists who might continue the tradition of Dix. Also, I find Dix's work a lot more beautiful than Trecartin's. Still, something about the comparison stuck with me. What do you think?

(Image of Otto Dix's Reclining Woman on Leopard from the National Post)

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