New York

Neo Rauch

David Zwirner | 537 West 20th Street

When Neo Rauch’s parents were killed in a train crash, Rauch was six months old, and his father had just entered art school. Rauch has no idea why they chose his unusual name, but the suspicion that some sort of wry art inflection was intended seems, at least in retrospect, tempting. As a prefix, neo has a double-edged quality, a suggestion of both cynicism and freshness, which Rauch’s artwork exuberantly fulfills. His earlier paintings, with their military hardware and cartoon balloons, read as diffuse satires of the East German regime under which he grew up. Rauch’s second New York exhibition, however, reminded us that his paintings are much more than sardonically recycled propaganda. Now more than ever, Rauch delivers an art that feels new, not in its premises but in its vitality.

The nine canvases here featured absurd theatrical scenes set in composite locales—storefronts, TV

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