Raoul De Keyser: Drift

Text by Ulrich Loock

Often understated, the emotional force of Raoul De Keyser’s cryptic and highly lyrical paintings is undeniable. Composed of very basic geometric shapes that hover between abstraction and figuration, many of De Keyser’s works seem to hint at forms just out of focus, spaces impossible to inhabit. Their power lies in their ability to suggest through simple gestures, and to compel intense contemplation. Since his death in 2012, De Keyser’s stature as a painter has only continued to grow, as has his influence on a younger generation of European painters. 

Raoul De Keyser: Drift is published on the occasion of the eponymous show at David Zwirner, first presented at the London gallery in November 2015 and traveling to New York in 2016. Curated by Ulrich Loock, who contributes the catalogue’s text, the exhibition is organized around a group of twenty-two paintings that the artist completed shortly before his death. Collectively, these works have become known as The Last Wall. Imposing stark material and formal limitations, De Keyser was able to revisit in this body of work many of the major subjects and themes that occupied him throughout his nearly fifty-year career: the inconspicuous things close at hand, the landscape of the low lands where he grew up and lived all his life, and the partition of the picture plane. This elegant catalogue presents plates and details of a careful selection of paintings, beginning in the 1970s, that emphasizes the tentative way De Keyser chose to explore his themes—never approaching anything directly, hinting rather than demonstrating. Taken together, Raoul De Keyser: Drift reveals an uncompromising artist who continued to pose new aesthetic problems for himself—even at the end of his life—and managed to come up with original and deeply moving solutions.


Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: Raoul De Keyser

Contributors: Ulrich Loock

Designer: Kim Beirnaert

Printer: VeronaLibri, Verona, Italy

Publication Date: 2016

Binding: Hardcover

Dimensions: 7 1/2 x 10 in (19.1 x 26.7 cm)

Pages: 143

Reproductions: 66 color, 6 b&w

ISBN: 9781941701287

Retail: $40 | £28

Status: Out Of Print

Raoul De Keyser

For nearly fifty years, Raoul De Keyser (1930-2012) created subtly evocative paintings and works on paper which appear at once straightforward and cryptic, abstract and figurative. Composed of basic but indefinable shapes and marks, his works often invoke spatial and figural illusions, though they remain elusive of any descriptive narrative. Despite—or precisely because of—their sparse gesturing, De Keyser’s works convey a grandeur that inspires prolonged contemplation. Individually as well as collectively, his works revolve around the activity of painting, but also move beyond its physical means to become more than the sum of their parts. Their apparent simplicity belies a lengthy gestation period, which is guided largely by intuition, rather than by following a pre-existing plan.

All Raoul De Keyser books

Ulrich Loock

Ulrich Loock was born in 1953 in Braunschweig, Germany. He was Director of Kunsthalle Bern from 1985–1997, Director of Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne, Switzerland from 1997–2001, and Deputy Director of Museu de Serralves, Porto, Portugal from 2003–2010. He currently lives and works in Berlin as an independent curator, art critic, and lecturer. He has curated numerous exhibitions of artists such as Michael Asher, Matthew Barney, Marlene Dumas, Robert Gober, Katharina Grosse, Eberhard Havekost, Maria Lassnig, Sol LeWitt, Brice Marden, Gerhard Richter, Wilhelm Sasnal, Thomas Schu¨tte, Thomas Struth, Luc Tuymans, and Christopher Wool. Loock also wrote the essay for Al Taylor: Rim Jobs and Sideffects (2011), co-published by David Zwirner and Steidl.