Besprechung David Altmejd

David Altmejd

Frederica Miller on „Flux“ at MUDAM Luxembourg, until 31.5.2015

David Altmejd 1974* is a New York-based Canadian artist who has been producing outlandish sculptures since the late 90’s. Recognised for the reoccurring use of werewolves in his work he has an affinity for the absurd. Currently on view at MUDAM, Luxembourg, ’Flux’ is an awe-inspiring retrospective that captures the monstrous charm of Altmejd’s creations.

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David Altmejd, The Architect, 2007; The Astronomer, 2007; The Minor, 2007 © Photo: Rémi Villaggi / Mudam Luxembourg

The vast show transforms the MUDAM’s ground floor into a labyrinth. Starting in the museum’s Grand Hall, the first impression is one of immense light. Squinting through the brightness it is possible to make out a handful of huge structures, many of which have mirrored surfaces. These reflective statues have been precisely positioned about the hall in order to interplay with the light that shines through the room’s glass roof.

The sculptures take inspiration from both architecture and anatomy, Altmejd’s ability to overlap the two is clearly demonstrated by ‘The Doctor’ [2007]. A wiry, angular figure made up of rectangular shards of mirror, its spiky head mimics that of a palm tree. It elegantly juts backwards over a coffee table, spilling a strand of reflective trestles onto its surface. Both effortlessly organic and immediately cubic ‘The Doctor’ sums up the fluid ambiguity present in much of Altmejd’s work.

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David Altmejd, The Architect, 2007; The Astronomer, 2007; The Minor, 2007 © Photo: Rémi Villaggi / Mudam Luxembourg

At the heart of the hall ‘The Centre’ [2008] stands almost four meters tall, a gigantic statue of a bearded wood-spirit, it dominates the central space. Standing before the glass backdrop the beast’s hollow torso acts as a channel through which the light entering the room must pass. The shiny sterility of the sculptures that flank ‘The Centre’ serve to underline its organic omnipresence. The creature’s coat is made from horse hair and he is adorned with feathers and sinewy details that make him feel very much alive. The sunlight that floods through ‘’The Centre’s’’ chest seems to symbolise the intense energy that rests at the exhibition’s core.

The path that curves round into the following rooms is lined with glittering spheres. Altmejd has been creating a collection of epoxy clay heads or ‘Rabbit Holes’ since 2006.The features of these disembodied orbs are corrupted by colourful crystals. Semi-precious stones are spread across the faces like a sparkling skin disease that leaves only their gaping mouths discernible. These wondrously grotesque creations path the way deeper into the exhibition.

Entering the next rooms is like witnessing a controlled explosion, Altmejd’s huge plexiglass cubes contain his full creative force. These painstakingly complex pieces consist of so many angles and different elements that it is challenging to know how to look. Almost seven meters in length and two meters high, ‘The Orbit’ [2012] brings together severed hands, synthetic hair, smashed mirrors and cherry stones all within the same box. Whilst these many elements sound overwhelming, to look at ‘The Orbit’ is stunningly balanced. The specimens are spaced out across different plexiglas plains and are connected with thin gold chains and coloured threads that act as visual guidelines.

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David Altmejd, The Architect, 2007; The Astronomer, 2007; The Minor, 2007 © Photo: Rémi Villaggi / Mudam Luxembourg

It is the chaotic harmony of Altmejd’s work that makes it so intriguing. He manages to present monstrous themes in a masterful light. ‘The Trail’ [2006] which occupies the final room of the exhibition aptly illustrates this ability. The piece consists of a many-tiered, mirror-covered rectangular structure at the far end of which lies a decapitated body. The leather-clad figure resides in a structure similar to a display case. The figure rests in a 50’s pin up pose whilst its leather-masked head lies around the corner. The structure is illuminated at several points and plants elegantly adorn each of its corners. Whilst this work is disturbing the precise positioning of elements and elegant interplay between light and texture prevent it from being an eye-sore.

‘Flux’ succeeds in seamlessly connecting the uncanny. Altmejd’s ability to navigate the space that exists between dreams and reality, horror and wonder, make the nature of his work unrivalled. The exhibition is on view at MUDAM, Luxemburg until May 31st.

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