Art and political engagement: Marlene Dumas

Amsterdam’s valhalla for modern and contemporary art, the Stedelijk Museum, currently hosts a major solo exhibition of Marlene Dumas. Paintings and drawings in her immense oeuvre are characterized by human forms by  sketched in loose, broad strokes using a muted pallette, the result of which is highly emotionally charged. Dumas is often inspired by photojournalism from newspapers and magazines, thus rendering an oeuvre that reflects our contemporary culture’s obsession with images. “This is a time of images, not of paintigs,” she sais in a documentary shown at the Stedelijk Museum.

Marlene Dumas – The Image as Burden includes portraits of the series ‘Great Men’, including film directors Pier Paolo Pasolini and Pedro Almodovar, choreographer Rudolf Nureyev, poet Federico Garcia Lorca, all persecuted because they were gay. These portraits were part of Dumas’ contribution to Manifesta 10, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art in St. Petersburg. “The project is to provoke thought, not aggression,” Dumas said about the portraits in an interview. “I hope to touch the audience with these intimate portraits and the lives of these men. I hope to share my shame, seeing the stupidity and cruelty of the human race. When you start to acknowledge the stories of these men, it breaks your heart.”

Oscar Wilde by Marlene Dumas

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