The Stedelijk Museum present MANIC / LOVE / TRUTH / LOVE by Jordan Wolfson, one of the most outspoken representatives of a new generation of artists who explore the increasing digitalization of society and other technological developments.
The first solo exhibition by American artist Jordan Wolfson in the Netherlands unfolds in two parts. Previously, MANIC / LOVE was on display; now, it is followed by TRUTH / LOVE, which offers an in-depth overview of the artist’s work through twelve 16 mm films, animated videos produced during the early years of his career, the video Animation Masks, and a selection of objects. Also featured is his first animatronic, Female figure (2014), a fascinating yet terrifying robotic sculpture equipped with facial recognition technology that enables it to interact with viewers.
The exhibition begins with Colored sculpture (2016), Wolfson’s latest animatronic artwork, which is based on the legacy of American pop culture. Wolfson’s work strips back the glossy veneer of the American dream to expose the darker side lurking beneath. The robot’s red hair and freckles recall pop cult characters like Huckleberry Finn, Howdy Doody, and Alfred E. Neuman, the Mad magazine mascot. The boy’s movements are controlled by a computer program as he dangles from heavy chains attached to a steel gantry. The figure floats effortlessly through the space before being thrown bodily to the floor. From time to time, the boy attempts to establish contact with the viewer, but he can never break free from the software which subjects him to torments that viewers experience on an almost visceral level.
Colored sculpture is presented alongside a selection of video works and digital paintings. One of the highlights is the video Raspberry poser (2012), which features a world populated by a medley of Disney-like cartoon characters, mutating red blood cells, a peripatetic condom, images from art history, and a punk, played by the artist himself. A blaring soundtrack of pop hits, from Beyoncé to Roy Orbison, melds the images into a cohesive, disturbing narrative.
Centerpiece of the exhibition’s second part is Wolfson’s first animatronic creation, the thought-provoking Female figure (2014). This computer-controlled, hyper-sexualized blonde robotic woman flaunts the kind of outfit ordinarily worn by pop stars in music videos: a see-through miniskirt, high-heeled thigh-high boots, and long gloves. A device loaded with motion tracking software, concealed beneath a green, bird-like mask, enables her to lock eyes with viewers. While the woman speaks to her audience—accompanied by a soundtrack of pop music—she gyrates before the mirror, alluring yet repugnant, in an endless ballet of watching and being watched.
The relentless physicality of the gallery-scale installation suffuses the work with a sense of violence and unpredictability. With his sculptures, Wolfson merges the boundaries between abstraction and figuration, challenging the formal and narrative potency of the sculptural discipline.