"Adolf Hitler revered the realism of ancient Greece and the Renaissance as the highest standard of art. But, like with so much else in his life, he knew even better what he hated: modernism. Hitler's favorite painter, Adolf Ziegler, exemplified the stilted, ersatz classicism that marked the art of the Third Reich. He also presided over the Nazis' "Degenerate Art" exhibitions, and it is to this able pasticheur of mannerist-inspired nudes and color-coordinated drapery that the artist Martí Cormand has metaphorically addressed a series of painted and drawn postcards. Cormand was partly inspired by the discovery of several expressionist and cubist sculptures unearthed in Berlin in 2010 by workers digging a new subway station. It's not clear how these eleven pieces came to be interred in layers of World War II rubble, but Cormand has based one series of paintings and drawings on a particular sculpture, Portrait of Actress Anni Mewes, a bronze head topped by a smooth carapace of hair (c. 1920, by Edwin Scharff). One painted version captures the scabby green blotches that covered the oxidized relic when it was rescued from the earth; a graphite drawing conveys the dark sleekness of the original surface. In other variations the face is blurred, as if being reborn: In one, it is a featureless emerald bust, while in another the eyes, lips, and nose are smeared like half-modeled clay, hinting at the process of casting bronze. In this last variant, Cormand (who was born in Barcelona in 1970 and now lives in Brooklyn) echoes the breakneck brushwork of Francis Bacon, who insisted on painting the human body even as the majority of postwar artists — believing that the social-realist propaganda of World War II had sullied figurative art — were moving to abstraction. Cormand works on both sides of that divide in the "Anni Mewes" series, in one piece abstracting the sculpture into a lushly painted blob, as if swaddled for transport from its unceremonious grave to the daylight above."
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