David Altmejd and Jon Rafman at the MAC (Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal)
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is all ready “to celebrate two exceptional Montréal artists, both well loved here and admired throughout the world,” says John Zeppetelli, Director and Chief Curator of the MAC. The artists in question are indeed riding high: they are sculptor David Altmejd, whose Montréal exhibition is the first collaborative undertaking between the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris and the MAC, and Jon Rafman, an explorer of Web culture who turns its phenomena into various unexpected forms. Both exhibitions are presented at the MAC from 20 June to 13 September 2015.
David Altmejd: Flux
Curator: Josée Bélisle
This major exhibition, the first collaborative undertaking between the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, provides a critical, retrospective survey of the work of internationally renowned Québec artist David Altmejd. It was first presented in Paris, from 10 October 2014 to 1 February 2015. Between Paris and Montréal, MUDAM Luxembourg welcomed an abridged version, reconfigured by the artist, from 7 March to 31 May 2015.
The presentation at the Musée features some thirty works produced over the last fifteen years, in addition to a new, site specific piece. One of the key works in the show, The Flux and the Flux Puddle, 2014, brilliantly sums up the main motifs and concerns that fill Altmejd’s remarkable, vigorous imagination.
His spectacular sculptures, meticulously crafted out of a wide assortment of components and materials, draw on a hybrid, cumulative aesthetic to conjure up the powerful forces of decay and regeneration, and to establish a metaphorical dialectic between the human world and the animal realm.
Altmejd quickly earned a reputation for his baroque depictions of the enigmatic figure of the werewolf, which constantly undergoes transformations. However, he does not offer stories or scenarios but, rather, reveals inspired iterations of a unique spirit and sensibility, in tune with the meanderings of a lucid dream.
Bringing together a minimalist structural rigour contrasted with unfolding fields of energy, Altmejd recognizes the primacy of the conceptual approach in shaping the cycles that run through his work: heads, constructed, architectural pieces, werewolves, bird men, giants, bodybuilders, guides, watchmen… The abrupt changes in scale (from the minuscule to the monumental), profusion of materials (crystals, mirrors, synthetic hair and fur, resin, wood, metal) and the various devices he uses to occupy the space (platforms, display cases, oversized cabinets) are all strategies that position the artist as a creator of all possibilities.
Universal in its scope, Altmejd’s work merges the self and the other in the constant, repeated echo of the mirror image and the intensity of the primal, human, animal presence at different moments in the cycle of life.
Born in Montréal in 1974, David Altmejd lives and works in New York. He represented Canada at the 52nd Venice Biennale, in 2007, and won the Sobey Art Award in 2009. Other exhibitions include the 8th Istanbul Biennial, in 2003; New York’s Whitney Biennial, in 2004; and the first Québec Triennial at the MACM, in 2008. Altmejd’s work may be found in the following collections: Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; National Gallery of Canada; Art Gallery of Ontario; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Les Abattoirs, Toulouse; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and MUDAM – Musée d’art moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg. He was recently made a companion of the Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec.
This exhibition was organized by the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris / Paris Musées and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
(text by Josée Bélisle)
Jon Rafman: The attraction of virtual communities
Curator: Mark Lanctôt
Jon Rafman (b. 1981) is a Montréal-born and based artist who, for his first major museum exhibition in Canada, has assembled a vast body of work in a variety of photographic works and video installations. While this selection covers a relatively short period of time, it articulates how as an artist he stands in for other archetypes such as the tour guide, the flâneur and the ethnographer. The exhibition will also feature recent developments in the artist’s approach to sculpture which, on many levels, bridges the gap between the virtual and the real.
Rafman’s rapidly evolving and diverse practice is not marked by clear-cut stages or periods. Rather, he condenses many concerns into individual works, and varies the emphasis accordingly. For example, the New Age Demanded series of images and sculptures exists simultaneously as an online catalogue, database or photoblog, and unique printed images and sculptures that reference modernist poetry (the title of the series is taken from a poem by Ezra Pound) and sculpture (the forms are evocative of Constantin Brancusi, Hans Arp and Henry Moore), as well as classical statuary. They are symptomatic of so-called “post-studio” production means in their application of digital manufacturing technologies (imaging software, 3D printing, computerized milling). More importantly, though, Rafman’s use of these technological tools allows the works to evoke a sense of futurity that is at once past (as related to modernist imagery) and present (in their seductive techno-fetishistic finish), hence underlining our constantly changing relationship to the future.
In Rafman’s work—especially in his videos—there is a form of layered nostalgia that manifests itself through nods to high and low culture, such as Internet memes, art history and video games, to name a few. Most of these works are presented here in DIY-crafted viewing stations that reference both high-end design from the early 1980s and vernacular suburban furniture from the sixties and/or seventies.
One of the major characteristics of the work in this survey, which is often associated with online culture, is the way it allows viewers to rethink their relationship to technology. More specifically, Rafman questions how it is that we, as a society, have established a new technological order based on a utopian ideal, only to then discredit any and all utopias as organizing principles for our societies. Our over-reliance on—as well as fascination and disappointment with—the Internet and the digital realm as potentially radically non-hierarchical democratic spaces is at the heart of these works.
(text by Mark Lanctôt)
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal – rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest 185, Montréal
20 June – 13 September 2015