Saturday, May 31, 2008

David Altmejd

525 West 24th Street
May 3–June 14

Reportedly, American men are on average three inches taller and fifty pounds heavier today than they were one hundred years ago. In roughly the same amount of time, the average Dutchman has grown seven inches. Our anthropometric history might not have been on David Altmejd’s mind when he assembled the nine splendid colossi that make up his second exhibition at this gallery (he was probably thinking Goya and Rodin), but standing amid his forest of giants, one can’t help but imagine them as heirs to our strengths and follies, strange emissaries from a future race raised on steroids.

Altmejd’s 2004 debut at the gallery was a dark, lubricious labyrinth filled with decapitated werewolves and allusions to Robert Morris and Sol LeWitt; while many of the themes (vulnerable, fractured figuration) and materials (broken mirrors, twine, sundry bibelots) are present in his current exhibition, he now works vertically rather than laterally, making statues using the same surreal architectural habits that informed his prior, installation-like work. The variation between each piece is astounding. From the look of it, Altmejd works heuristically, deciding on the shape and form of each being intuitively as he builds. (A rejoinder, perhaps, to the polished, overspecified, and overproduced statements of other contemporary sculptors.) As if to hammer home the point, the artist’s hand is evident everywhere. Literally. Plaster casts of hands peek out from anuses (The Spiderman [all works 2008]), grasp throats and fondle testicles (The Center), or cluster along the entire surface like some sort of florid, Freddy Krueger nightmare (YOU). Sometimes his beings don’t resemble beings at all, as in The Cave, an awesome, mirrored obelisk, or another boxy, reflective figure, The Quail. (“The Balzac piece,” as a friend put it.) Then, to throw you off again, there’s Love, a hollow, spindly, barely there bit of agita. Circling the sculptures, the viewer is repeatedly frustrated by the impossibility of a full view. One imagines secrets in every piece; they resist, and thus incite, scopophilia.

—David Velasco