Olaf Nicolai

Galerie EIGEN + ART | Berlin

IN GERMANY, the opposition between realism and abstraction has always been intertwined with the colliding political ideologies of east and west. Olaf Nicolai, an artist of East German origin, anticipates the next stage in this cultural battle with his sculpture A Portrait of the Artist as a Weeping Narcissus, 2000. By producing a life-size cast of himself, he calls up the earlier conflict around the dogma of Socialist Realism and recasts the issue by referring it to his own body. At a time when traditional approaches to painting are enjoying a boom with the vogue for a retro style of figuration, Nicolai's sculpture is more than an ironic commentary on the return to a long superceded discourse of mastery. In fact, his reference to the figurative is thoroughly conceptual. While formally the work corresponds to a conventional representation of reality, the depicted situation eludes precisely

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