Against the Wall
Originally published in 2010 on the occasion of Dumas’ first solo presentation at David Zwirner in New York, this much sought-after exhibition catalogue–which sold out shortly after publication–has been reprinted in 2014 to coincide with the artist’s European retrospective exhibition The Image as Burden, organized by Tate Modern, London in collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Fondation Beyeler, Basel traveling through 2015. Throughout her career, Dumas has created lyrically charged compositions that eulogize the frailties of the human body, probing issues of love and melancholy. At times her subjects are more topical, merging socio-political themes with personal experience and art-historical antecedents to reflect unique perspectives on the most salient and controversial issues facing contemporary society. The large-scale works included in Against the Wall are primarily based on media imagery documenting Israel and Palestine, exploring the tension between the photographic documentation of reality and the constructed space of painting. “The Wall,” the painting that began the series, at first appears to present a scene at the Western Wall (also known as the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. However, this work is in fact based upon a photograph from a newspaper that portrayed a group of Orthodox Jews on their way to pray at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Dumas destabilizes preconceived notions about what, in fact, is being pictured–engaging the often ambiguous nature of ideas like truth or justice. “In a sense they are my first landscape paintings,” Dumas further notes in the catalogue, “or should I say ‘territory paintings.’ That is why they are so big.” The somber color plates reproduced in the publication are given context by Dumas’s own musings, a text framed as a letter to David Zwirner in which she tries to tell him “about the ‘why'” of this powerful series.\nBorn in 1953 in Cape Town, South Africa, Marlene Dumas studied at the University of Cape Town before moving to The Netherlands in the late 1970s to study painting and psychology. She continues to live and work in Amsterdam. In 2008, a critically acclaimed retrospective, Measuring Your Own Grave, was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in association with The Museum of Modern Art, New York, which toured to The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas in 2009.