“Et in Arcadia Ego,” the expression goes—in English: “Even in Arcadia, there am I.” Even in Arcadia, that mythic paradise, lurks the specter of death. Markus Lüpertz’s new paintings—which the artist, now in the sixth decade of his career, painted over the past four years across Italy and Germany—are, too, wrought with the doubled edge of beauty and unease. The full impact of this series may be absorbed in Lüpertz’s latest solo show at Michael Werner.
Bodies from antiquity—wide-hipped, thick-rumped, and rendered with the sketchy lines—appear in ethereal landscapes, their shapes colored in with pale earth tones. Jasons Abschied (Jason’s Farewell) (2020)[pictured], treats the classical subject in part with a Terra cotta-colored woman bearing bust-like classical features: an aquiline nose and a pronounced cupid bow, posed in contrapposto. But Lüpertz also innovates the planing of space in a distinctly Modernist manner across these canvases. Certain figures are surrounded by brown patches of naked canvas as if set a layer above or below their pastoral backdrops, and rectangular sections sometimes shimmer brightly around their edges. In the diptych Erwartung (Adam) (Anticipation [Adam]) (2020), Adam’s yearning spine echoes the curve of a dark tree in the adjacent panel.
“Jasons Abschied (Jason’s Farewell)”, 2020. Mixed media on canvas in artist’s frame, 78 3/4 x 102 1/4 inches.