Norbert Bisky

Norbert Bisky


Born in Leipzig in 1970 and now based in Berlin, Norbert Bisky grew up during the waning years of East Germany\’s socialist regime as the son of a prominent Communist official. The large figurative paintings in Bisky\’s New York debut draw on his memories of a childhood under GDR rule. Conceptually, he threads such memories through the needle of Socialist Realism, the current obsession with marketing youth culture and the homoerotic subtext often found in fashion advertising. The idyllic scenes and saccharine, sunshiny colors he favors belie the sinister underpinnings of totalitarian rule.

A large canvas titled Klassenkampf (Class Struggle), 2003, shows four boys frolicking outdoors. The uniforms they wear identify them as belonging to the East German version of the Boy Scouts. Two of the boys bemusedly watch the other two wrestling. The high testosterone level of these robust teens and the intense exertion of their taut body movements are palpable. As well as making a mocking allusion to Marxist ideology, the title evokes the pecking order common to schoolyard high jinks.

The bucolic settings of Bisky\’s paintings and the active male figures that populate them are painted in a kitschy palette of creamy baby blues, peaches and grassy greens that float across gaps of snow-white ground. In Neue Pyramiden (New Pyramids), 2003, a red helicopter mysteriously hovers in the upper left reaches of the canvas. Occupying the center foreground is a young man holding up a set of track-and-field batons. In the distance on either side of him are more athletes, in the process of forming human pyramids. The Aryan features of these blond adolescents look straight out of central casting; their unblemished, blank faces are at once seductive and vacuous.