New York

Georg Baselitz

Matthew Marks/The Pace Gallery/Michael Werner

In the hands of Georg Baselitz the figure becomes an unholy landscape. Alien and ambiguously monumental, it seems to disintegrate at the very moment it is declared heroic: the psychosocial space of his paintings is one of irreparable suffering. Despite this turbid content, it remains fashionable to talk about Baselitz’s paintings as abstractions, as though the perverse act of reversing the figure—the works at Michael Werner, from the ’70s, include some of the first examples of this practice—were merely a technical matter, and as though his painterly explorations were mere attempts to stretch the limits of the expressionistic tradition and sensibility. In fact, Baselitz is not just trying to be “technically” new; he is attempting to articulate the tragedy of being human as unsentimentally and succinctly as possible.

Paradoxically, in the recent paintings exhibited at Pace, the efforts to be

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