From Dreams to Reality and Back Again: The Work of David Altmejd

 

David Altmejd, The Flux and The Puddle (detail) [2014], Plexiglas, quartz, polystyrene, polyurethane foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, resin, synthetic hair, clothing, leather shoes, thread, mirror, plaster, acrylic paint, latex paint, metal wire, glass eyes, sequin, ceramic, synthetic flowers, synthetic branches, glue, gold, domestic goose feathers (Anser anser domesticus), steel, coconuts, resin, burlap, lighting system including fluorescent lights, felt pen, wood, coffee grounds, 327.7 x 640.1 x 713.7 cm. Photo: James Ewing. Image courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. © David Altmejd

Following its successful run at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris and Mudam Luxembourg, Flux — now on view at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) — draws viewers into David Altmejd’s unique world of dreams, energy and transformation. This survey exhibition of the artist’s work features 35 sculptures from 2002 to the present day, including two site-specific works created for the MAC.

“This show is about a renewal of the idea of sculpture,” says Josée Bélisle, exhibition curator and Curator of Collections for the MAC. “The content is very intriguing. It’s totally figurative. You enter a world that does not look like anything you know, but you do recognize elements from reality. All the works are different, and the idea is for people to be surprised over and over again as they move through the exhibition.”


David Altmejd, The Island (detail) [2011], polystyrene, expandable foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, wood, synthetic hair, resin, quartz, Plexiglas, coconuts, acrylic paint, metal wire, glitter, latex paint. Overall dimensions: 489 x 254 x 254 cm, 365.8 x 101.6 x 101.6 cm. Plinth: 123.2 x 152.4 x 152.4 cm. Photo: Farzad Owrang. Courtesy The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, CT

Born in Montréal in 1974, Altmejd now lives and works in New York City. After showing at the Istanbul Biennial in 2003 and New York’s Whitney Biennial in 2004, Altmejd represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2007, and went on to win the Sobey Art Award two years later. His work can be found in public and private collections across Canada and around the world, including the National Gallery of Canada, which has two Altmejd works in its collection. 

Altmejd, who describes himself as an “energy fetishist,” seeks to capture the energy of transformation and movement in his sculpture. Uniting his fascination with the exaggerated forms of the Baroque and creatures such as werewolves, birdmen, giants and watchmen, Altmejd creates worlds in which anything is possible. 

“The werewolf is present in work he created at the beginning of his career, and also in the extraordinary The Flux and the Puddle (2014),” said Bélisle in her interview with NGC Magazine. “The latter is almost like the sum of everything that he has done to date — a synthesis of all the materials, concepts, colours and themes he has explored since becoming a sculptor. It’s about his studio; it’s about the work he creates in his studio, and how he creates that work with his hands, shaping his sculptures. But it is also a representation of a human figure that could be himself, or even another artist in another studio.”

 

David Altmejd, The Flux and The Puddle (detail) [2014], Plexiglas, quartz, polystyrene, polyurethane foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, resin, synthetic hair, clothing, leather shoes, thread, mirror, plaster, acrylic paint, latex paint, metal wire, glass eyes, sequin, ceramic, synthetic flowers, synthetic branches, glue, gold, domestic goose feathers (Anser anser domesticus), steel, coconuts, resin, burlap, lighting system including fluorescent lights, felt pen, wood, coffee grounds, 327.7 x 640.1 x 713.7 cm. Photo: James Ewing. Image courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. © David Altmejd

Altmejd crafts his sculptures from a wide variety of materials, including crystals, mirrors, synthetic hair, fur, resin, wood and metal, and often displays his sculptures in oversized cabinets, Plexiglas boxes, and on platforms. The first work in the exhibition is Sarah Altmejd (2003): a bust of his sister, with a hole where her face should be. Around the edges of the hole, glitter, wire and jewels give viewers the unsettling impression that they are looking through her head. In an interview with NGC Magazine in January 2015, the artist noted that he chose this work because he wanted to open “with something intense, and also because the black hole can be seen as a metaphor for nothingness. It’s like the Universe just before the Big Bang. I thought this was a perfect starting point.”

“Another key work in Flux,” says Bélisle, “is Le spectre et la main (2012), which was shown at the museum three years ago as a part of the group exhibition, Zoo. This work is quite fantastic, because it’s also about the transformation of an animal — in this case, a zebra — and we can almost see how this extraordinarily beautiful figure is dissolving and reconstructing itself. It’s like a moment frozen in time, and it’s an extremely seductive piece.” 

 

David Altmejd, Le spectre et la main (detail) [2012], Plexiglas, coconut shells, epoxy clay, thread, resin, metal wire, horse hair, acrylic paint, glue, Sharpie pen, thread spools. Overall dimensions: 315.6 x 683.3 x 248.9 cm, 277.5 x 662.9 x 228.6 cm. Plinth: 38.1 x 683.3 x 248.9 cm. Photo: Guy L’Heureux

Visitors to the MAC will also have an opportunity to see two new works made for the exhibition. One of them, hints Bélisle, is a plaster work being created right on the wall, expressing the “creative gesture” and the subtraction of matter. The second new work will allude to the transformation of a man into a werewolf, using the human hand as a motif.”

Flux is the first collaborative undertaking between the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Showcasing the work of one of Canada’s most exciting sculptors over more than a decade, it is as much a survey exhibition as it is, in Bélisle’s words, “a stunning re-examination of the work he was doing in the beginning of his career.” 

Flux is on view at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal until September 13, 2015.
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