With the help of JACE van de Ven
I am not a great connoisseur of modern visual art. It almost seems like a daily job to keep track of everything that moves in it. When I read the culture supplements of newspapers that still do something about art, I’m often surprised by how many names I don’t know. Fortunately, I usually get an idea of what is described if the text is accompanied by functional and preferably as few artistic images as possible. A reference to certain -isms in art can also help, as well as an explanation of how the displayed work relates to these -isms.
Since the end of the nineteenth century, it has begun to count -isms in the visual arts: impressionism, expressionism, surrealism and all kinds of -isms that only existed for a decade or less. The reason was often that the artist who got a certain -ism continued to develop and therefore quickly no longer met his own -ism. And it was artists who were assigned a certain existing -ism, often not satisfied with. They thought their art was tucked away in a drawer like this, while they themselves thought it was still frolicking freely.
These thoughts come to mind when I talk to the artist S. Lloyd Trumpstein in the Luyck Gallery – three hundred meters from my house and therefore my most visited exhibition place. He exhibits there together with his colleague Roel Sloot. Trumpstein used to draw a monthly comic in the paper version of Brabant Cultureel when it still existed. His work is often characterized as absurdist. And because he exhibits in the Luycks Gallery by owner Ingrid Luycks, who a few years ago stapled Tilburg Absurdistan? published, I quickly start our conversation about a possible absurdist movement among Tilburg artists, which will include Trumpstein, Sloot and Gummbah, among others.
Trumpstein thinks my comment is a bit of a bias. He is not happy about it. “Through such a pre-qualification, the viewer is guided and limited in his judgment”, he complains. “As if I knew what absurdism is! I don’t feel that I belong to a certain movement, I try to be open to the things that present themselves, also technically. I like to show openly how I incorporate it in my art. They can decide for themselves what the viewers think.”
I will actually look differently after this explanation. After all, I knew Trumpstein from his full-blown and hilarious cartoons full of details and ironic brainwaves. The work in Luyck’s Gallery is more sober, with a geometric idiom, partly abstract and architectural in structure. From a distance his works look like linocuts, closer they appear to be printed and processed on linen, but in reality they appear to be made with acrylic ink. It is open compositions, without social judgement, which give the exhibition its title, piture extremely useful (extremely useful paintings) to an ironic statement, an absurd joke?
Trumpstein says that early next year, Atlas will publish a book of sixty drawings by him made with acrylic ink. Texts are added by AHJ Dautzenberg. He and the author know each other well, but for the book they don’t want to work together so much as bring something together. The drawings do not become illustrations of the texts or vice versa, but both artists know each other’s work and let the unconscious play a role in the production process. Without prior agreements, they trust that text and drawings reinforce each other.
As Trumpstein talks about the book, there Rex, Rex is called, but then with a letter e that is reversed in the second rex, co-exhibitor Roel Sloot enters the gallery, together with a lady who introduces herself as his mother. They look at Roel’s work, bizarre paintings of pigeon fanciers, undertakers and people watching explosions of atomic bombs like the one that happened in the Nevada desert in the 1950s, with the intrepid cowboy hero John Wayne in the lead, to indicate that it was all get rid of the radiation.
Sloot’s work is much more anecdotal than Trumpstein’s. It seems like he’s looking for the universal pigeon fancier, the universal undertaker, or the universal nuclear test viewer. His main characters look somewhat amusing, as if they can’t help but feel that someone has chosen them to be immortalized in a painting. Despite not being precisely painted, they all have something typical that makes them atypical to the people who come to see them. Although I may not use Trumpstein’s term absurdist, I would like to call the part of the exhibition for which Sloot is responsible absurdist, perhaps alienatingly absurdist. Wonderful how he consciously wants to attribute deeper meaning to situations and characters where or whom no one suspects or wants to suspect deeper meaning in.
But there is something else. In the view list I see that there should also be a section with ‘erotic art for rich gays’ made by Roel Sloot. I get up and go to the artist with the question: “So where is he?”. Trench beams and a large drawer open under a desk. A dozen jigsawed and black-painted, copulating male figures several centimeters high on also black plateaus become visible. What immediately strikes me are the red dots indicating that the artworks have been sold. Until that moment, only one of the paintings had such a red dot in the gallery, but about half of the ten black figures in the drawer have already been sold.
With a smile, I turn to Sloot and want to say something about this special art business, but his mother beats me to it: “Did you do it, Roel?” “Yes, mother,” replies Sloot. The older lady looks at me shaking her head. And then I did my best to raise him, her eyes seem to say. I shrug my shoulders and think: Maybe a subject for a next series of portraits by Roel Sloot, mothers who can no longer follow their children.
By the way, a wonderful statement that the erotic art for rich homosexuals is kept in a dark room. We are therefore not going to portray the black figures in Brabant Cultureel. They belong to an -ism in art that must remain obscure, but which is omnipresent: the erotic. No artist escapes.
‘Pitture extremamente utile’ can still be seen until October 16, 2022, Thu to Fri from 14-18 and Sat and Sun 14-17. Due to participation in Art The Hague, the gallery will be closed from 5 to 9 October.
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