VICTIMS AND VICTIMIZERS, a series comprising three dozen paintings, has as its constant visual theme an imaginary mask invented in the 1930s by a psychiatrist at the Beckomberga insane asylum in Stockholm, Sweden. The mask was originally intended for use only as a patient restraint (the fact that the contraption left eyes and mouth uncovered was of special benefit to orderlies who were thus able to observe the pupils and lips of violent inmates during application of subduing force).
It was subsequently adopted by police departments and paramilitary organizations around the world. In this form, the mask was used as a bandage, applied to demonstrators and political prisoners to help contain bleeding after beatings.
The first to adopt this method were camp guards in Nazi Germany; from there the practice spread to other totalitarian regimes. In its ultimate (most insidious) form, the mask was employed as a disguise by corporate executives, politicians and religious leaders with the objective of obscuring their true identity and intentions (bringing to mind the blinding hypocrisy that is the object lesson of Hans Christian Andersens tale The Emperors New Clothes).
For Rasmussen, the mask provides a means to focus viewers attention on victims and victimizers in a world held hostage by crime and violence. Examples of paintings exploring the horrors of war are Hiroshima Man (the quickly-drawn mouth and eyes create an expression of stunned terror), and Auschwitz Aryan, where the artist attached strands of barbed wire to a wood panel as a way to recreate the fence of a prison camp (while the majority of inmates in the Nazi prisons were Jews, a lesser-known category contained blond, blue-eyed members of Hitlers superior race, the Aryanthis group, reserved for homosexuals, were forced to wear garbs displaying a pink triangle).
In Pinstripe Patriot, Rasmussen focuses on a victimizer of the white-collar-crime variety, depicting the incarnation of an investment banker, a tele-evangelist, a political consultant...
The Mask series may, with its infinite source of subject matter, become an endless pursuit for the artist, even as he in parallel quests continues to explore new topics and forms of expression.