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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rainer Maria Latzke

The work of Rainer Maria Latzke (and his crew).                                 
Rainer Maria Latzke
Virtually all artists dream of their art making them rich and famous. Artists are good at dreaming, which may explain why they're artists in the first place. Most have to be satisfied with creating illusions of their dreams in their chosen media--paint, print, film, pixels, etc. Most of us lack sufficient talent, daring, education, and drive to make our dreams anything more than imaginary images. I'm guilty of this. I create imaginary 3-D architecture for my own enjoyment using Will Wright's Sims 3 software (the Sims are just to keep me grounded in some degree of reality). We all know two or three British painters and one or two Americans paint-pushers who have done reasonably well financially, but for the most part, the money has gone to those artists able to utilize various forms of mass media to bring their art to either a few people with lots of money or lots of people with a little money (as in the case of filmmakers). Then there's the German-born painter, Rainer Maria Latzke. You could say he's done both.

In this 1985 photo, Latzke is seen with his son working on a mural for Mercedes Benz.
Venice Bathroom, Rainer Maria Latzke.
How much? If you've gotta ask,
you can't afford it.
Latzke is a muralist, which is something like calling Michelangelo a plasterer. In fact Latzke has often been called a "Modern Day Michelangelo." Although he doesn't reject the designation outright, it does require some explanation and qualifications on his part. Michelangelo was a creative genius, but he also used state-of-the art fresco techniques to mollify Julius II and his grandiose edifice complex. Latzke has gone a step further. He has invented state-of-the-art technology in painting murals; and in the process, satisfied some of his own edificial tendencies. His patented software and associated mural techniques he calls "Frescography." (My spell-checker just accused me of making up that word myself.) Basically it's what you might call computerized, digitalized, aggrandized fresco painting. The indoor pool space (top) displays the results, the photo of Latzke and his son (above) suggests how it's done.

A "fool the eye" eyeful, Rainer Maria Latzke (the girls are part of the mural).
Rainer Maria Latzke was born in 1950. He was one of eight children born to Alfons (who was an art teacher) and Lisa Latzke (also an artist). He grew up in Cologne, Germany, though the family is of Polish descent. Rainer Latzke began his studies at Gutenberg University in Mainz, training to be an art teacher like his father. From there he went on to study at Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts where he encountered Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter. He displays Richter's photorealistic style, from Beuys, he got his work ethic and flair for self-promotion. Armed with such traits, Latzke first tried taking on private students in his hometown, with only modest success. Giving that up, he took off for Italy to study the Renaissance, where he picked up his Michelangeloean yearnings (I did make that word up myself).

Mediterranean Port, Rainer Maria Latzke
A Latzke Dreamworlds fresco mural for Maserati
In 1981, his career as a muralist starting to take off, Latzke married and started a family (two sons and a daughter). His early clients included names like Harrad's (London Department Store), Mercedes Benz, and a German rock band called the Scorpions. By 1984, Latzke was ready to "settle down." He bought a dilapidated chateau in Belgium where he began restoring its 38 rooms while teaching the finer points of mural painting to a growing group of post-graduates grouters. That was his first house. Ten years later, he moved on to Monte Carlo and a similar domestic edifice also in need of restoration, the Villa Paradou overlooking the sea, which had once been owned by the guy who invented Cinemascope. While working, teaching, and painting there, Latzke began exploring better ways of doing all three.

An oriental flavored bedroom by Latzke. Is it any wonder the Chinese love him.
Each mural is signed by the artist.
As the 1980s merged into the 1990s Latzke wrote two books on mural painting emphasizing the digital revolution blooming brightly before him. Unlike many traditional artists of his time, Latzke embraced the new technology, especially that having to do with computer graphics and the development of large-format inkjet printing. In the years that followed, computers became commonplace, software became more powerful, and printers simply grew. Do you realize they now make high-quality inkjet printers more than 100 inches in width? That's eight feet or more! Latzke discovered that not only could he design his tromp l'oeil murals on a computer screen, he could also transfer them to paper (I didn't even know they made paper that wide). Then, going beyond simply drawing and printing "cartoons" by computer for use in drawing on the wall (an intensively laborious task in mural painting), he pioneered techniques to allow the printing of the mural itself on surfaces such as canvas, vinyl, even glass. Latzke invented Dreamworlds Design Studio software and the Institute of Frescography (Utah State University) to train budding young muralists how to use it.

Latzke's Dreamworlds Design Studio--Photoshop for murals.
With continuing technical and digital improvements, Frescography allows the design of a mural in but a few hours, the finished project ready for installation in as little as two weeks. Yes, there's still a little painting involved, the system is not perfect; though Latzke claims the finished murals are. Today, this "Modern Day Michelangelo" divides his time between four or five homes (restoration projects) around the world, the latest being in Shanghai, China, where he teaches and has a studio at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts (SIVA). You want to know the most distressing aspect of Latzke's success? He's a multi-millionaire and he's five years younger than I am (sigh).

The mural comes with the hired help.

Take a look at Latzke's lavish digs in the videos below:


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