Rearview Mirror, 1986

With a format akin to a panoramic screen, the subject of Rearview Mirror is clearly announced in the title. But this rearview mirror seems suspended by itself against a monochromatic, dirty yellow backdrop, without any other element telling us whether we are in a car or if it’s driven by anyone. We can see the reflection of what seems to be a road, but it is equally undefined, without any landscape around. This rearview mirror invites us to look behind us. Its wide-screen format and the title in English suggest we are in an American car, the symbol par excellence of our consumer society. What it shows doesn’t look at all like an American road: everything is black around it and the road is crossed by thick black lines that remind of a railway track. Could it be a railway line to the end of the night? Like deportation trains during World War II? Luc Tuymans has worked a lot on Nazism and this painting, made in 1986 when WWII was still very present in the public debate, seems to be taking a look at this past from the point of view of American modernity. Beyond this, it questions the act of looking, what one sees or refuses to see, and the power of images. It also reflects, literally and figuratively, on the condition of all images, which are by nature always seen in retrospect since they are always the memory of a moment. In so doing, the artist takes us to a zone situated between reality and the representation of reality as proposed in this painting.