'Having set the fundamentals, the stage, I introduce the actors on the stage. Then it happens--when I set the inhabitants into a relation, I am not able to plan. In between the figures, and in between the figures and me, subtle relations start to be created. A microclimate comes into being' (Rauch, quoted in A. Lubov, 'The New Leipzig School', pp. 69-70, in Neo Rauch: para, exh. cat., New York, 2007, p. 69).
Executed whilst Rauch was preparing in earnest for his inaugural solo exhibition in the United States at David Zwirner's New York Gallery, Isola records a seminal moment in Rauch's career as he stood on the brink of international success. The huge personal significance of this momentous occasion finds allegorical interpretation in the unfolding drama presented here by Rauch, who himself takes centre stage besides the futuristic ray-gun pointing in to the distance in the centre of the composition. The scene can be interpreted as a metaphor for Rauch's impending exhibition in the U.S. and the way in which he is preparing to 'shoot' his Leipzig style of painting right into the capitalist heart of the Western world.
Rauch's work is filled with reference to a variety of histories, ideologies and cultural environments. In Isola for example, the 'art cannon', the figures and the architecture all seem to take inspiration from the Cold War era. Yet they are juxtaposed with an input device that controls the 'art cannon' and the modernist, at times abstract rendition of the landscape. Rooted in the particular word in which he grew up, the work is an excellent example of Rauch's ability to conflate a vast array of signs and references from various cultural and social histories, in a way that describes a hesitant national psyche borne out of an uncertain past. It affords several complex narratives revolving and signposts of Communism and consumerism, injecting industrial paraphernalia with post-modern irony and humour whilst also bringing to mind German art history from Drer and Freidrich to Baselitz and Beuys.