VanhaerentsArtCollection, Rue Anneessens 29, 1000 Brussels

  • The Architect 2007
    Title : The Architect 2007
  • The Astronomer 2007
    Title : The Astronomer 2007
  • The Doctor 2007
    Title : The Doctor 2007
  • The Hunter 2007
    Title : The Hunter 2007
  • The Miner 2007
    Title : The Miner 2007
  • The Thinker 2007
    Title : The Thinker 2007
  • picture Joost Vanhaerents
    Title : picture Joost Vanhaerents
  • picture by Joost Vanhaerents...
    Title : picture by Joost Vanhaerents...
  • picture by Joost Vanhaerents..
    Title : picture by Joost Vanhaerents..

Three years ago David Altmejd (born 1974, Montreal, lives and works in New York) finished a series of monumental mirror sculptures. These six giants were first exhibited at the opening of the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art. They were designed as classically-inspired colossi. Later on they became part of the VanhaerentsArtCollection in Brussels. In 2009, the giants traveled to Le Magasin in Grenoble and Les Abattoirs in Toulouse.

To David Altmejd, these giants are architectural entities. In his earlier work, the artist made hyper-complex installations consisting of spaces, edges, passages, staircases and so on. These ‘architectural structures’ aren’t organized in a logical way. They seem to have grown into this form, like organisms or bodies. This concept of ‘architecture as a body’ was turned into ‘the body as architecture’. Thus the Giant was born. A human form was given spaces, staircases in holes like a building. The Giant became a construction that could even be a home to small animals.

The mirror was first used as a part of Altmejd’s architectural installations. As a periscope, the mirror was used to see hidden objects. From there it evolved and turned into an important formal element. Altmejd often used crystals in his work, suggesting a process of transformation. The mirror was introduced as an alternative to these crystals. Though the giant already existed in David Altmejd’s work, these colossi are for the first time completely covered with mirrors. Breaks and gaps in the surfaces have to do with the artist’s love for imperfection. The giants are always abstract, realistic and constructed. As constructions there is a sense of improvisation, referring to life, growth and transformation.

Crystals, transformation, suspense, energy: these concepts are all very present in David Altmejd’s work. It’s like Jim Henson’s film The Dark Crystal (1982), taking place in ‘another world, another time,... in the age of wonder’. This mysterious other world again comes to life here. The dark element in Altmejd’s work (the werewolf, decapitation, decomposed bodies…) has led to the label of ‘modern gothic’. Before being an artist Altmejd planned to become an evolutionary biologist. Perhaps that’s why he constantly creates these remarkable symbioses between architecture and biology.

Through a dialogue inspired by the artist the collector has conceived of a distinctive setting for the six individual works. The giants are shown in a space with a mirrored wall and a black wall. Thus the walls seem to disappear. The endless mirror effect turns the physical space upside down. You are now entering a disturbing setting in which space is no longer what it seems. The chess-board on the floor refers to Marcel Duchamp. The infamous French artist, creator of the famous urinal, used to be an ardent chess player. His work buried coded messages that could only be fully comprehended by proficient chess players. Here the giants are standing as players on an endless mirrored chess-board, as extraordinary, perhaps even extraterrestrial beings visiting us from ‘the age of wonder’.

Els Fiers - journalist and art critic

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