David Altmejd and Jon Rafman at the MAC
This summer, two Montréal artists in the spotlight
Montréal, June 19, 2015 — 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. Presented from June 20 to September 13, the two shows invite Montrealers and the many tourists who come to visit our city during the summer to venture into two fascinating and highly original worlds.
David Altmejd – Flux: from Sarah to The Flux and the Puddle
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is proud to host the brilliant homecoming of David Altmejd, who is already well known from the US to Europe. Flux, a major survey exhibition, features some thirty works produced over the last fifteen years by this Montréal-born sculptor currently based in New York. The show also includes a site-specific mural and another new work, fresh out of the artist’s New York City studio.
Considered one of today’s most talented artists on the international scene, Altmejd creates an organic yet phantasmagorical world that combines various forces of decay and regeneration in a fantastical life cycle. In describing his work, he says “a perpetual tension must be there, between the attractive and the repellent, like the two poles necessary to maintain vital force.”
Sarah Altmejd, produced in 2003 when the artist was completing his studies in New York, opens the exhibition and gives us insight into the sculptor’s process as a whole. This bust of his sister (the person he loves the most in the world, he says), viewed from behind, reveals long hair tied back by a blue elastic, and a right ear sporting a ring with a star in the middle. From the front, the sculpture shows, where the face should be, an empty space adorned with blue, silver and coral glitter. The artist sees this black hole, which could be fearsome, as a metaphor for the beginning of everything, the Big Bang that gives rise to life. This will be seen again in different forms in many of the artist’s creations.
The Flux and the Puddle, 2014, a key work in the show and the inspiration behind its title, brilliantly sums up–in a mini-retrospective and a reflection of his studio/laboratory–the main motifs and subjects that fill Altmejd’s unique and powerful imagination. In a gigantic Plexiglas box, we see the organized chaos of mythical creatures (werewolf, birdman), animals, insects and plants that form his world. The artist produced them with incomparable skill and inventiveness, using a host of different synthetic and natural materials (epoxy clay, resin, quartz, sequins, mirror, hair, feathers, coconuts, coffee grounds, etc.). The smashed mirror also allows him to offer multiple points of view and present a visceral, structural spectacle that could resemble a painting fragmented in space.
Long interested in biology and life’s metamorphoses, Altmejd possesses an endless curiosity that combines with his fascination with the world of dreams and nightmares. For example, his figures (such as bodybuilders) seem to create themselves with their own hands, to transform themselves by themselves. He also says: “My dream experience is what enables me to understand the importance of inner space.” And it is these exploded inner spaces, that look rather like all kinds of ecosystems, that he presents in the MAC exhibition.
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. He also took part in the 8th Istanbul Biennial in 2003, New York’s Whitney Biennial in 2004 and the first Québec Triennial at the MAC in 2008. His work may be found in numerous collections in Canada, the United States, France and Luxembourg. In 2015, he was made a companion of the Ordre des arts et des lettres du Québec.
The Montréal presentation of David Altmejd – Flux was organized by MAC Collection curator Josée Bélisle.
The exhibition is accompanied by an abundantly illustrated catalogue, co-published with Paris Musées. The publication includes a piece entitled L’espace intérieur, a condensed version of two conversations between David Altmejd, Robert Vifian and François Michaud, as well as Le Codex Altmejd, an article by Louise Déry. The catalogue may be purchased for $54.95 at the MAC.
To enrich the visitor’s experience, the MAC has created a microsite highlighting ten works, including Sarah Altmejd and The Flux and the Puddle. The microsite is accessible via the Musée’s website at flux.macm.org. The comments on the works were recorded by the artist himself.
Organization and thanks
The David Altmejd – Flux exhibition was designed and organized by the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in collaboration with the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris and Paris Musées.
The exhibition was presented in Paris from October 10, 2014, to February 1, 2015. Between Paris and Montréal, the MUDAM Luxembourg hosted a new version of the exhibition, reconfigured by the artist, from March 7 to May 31, 2015.
The Montréal presentation of Flux was made possible by support from The Brant Foundation Art Study Center and the Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.
Additional information at: www.davidaltmejd.com
Jon Rafman: The attraction of virtual communities
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is delighted to present the first major museum exhibition in Canada devoted to Montréal artist Jon Rafman and to accompany it with an extensive catalogue. Rafman first made a name for himself with his series The Nine Eyes of Google Street View, begun in 2009, and his international reputation has grown ever since. At the MAC, the exhibition Jon Rafman brings us a wide-ranging selection of video installations, sculptures and photographs produced since 2008.
Part anthropologist, part archivist, Rafman brilliantly and passionately explores the subcultures that people the Internet, seeking to question the distinction between virtual and real. Describing himself as “deeply humanistic,” the artist is interested in the effects of technology and its obsolescence, and in the artificiality of the digital world, which he thinks indicates a current “fed-up” attitude toward the real world.
Given the abundance of subjects offered by the Web, Rafman does not feel the need to create original material, choosing instead to work with existing matter. “The craft is found in the searching, selecting or curating, and editing together of the materials pulled from far-flung corners of the Web.” Yet, he insists, “it is not about fetish tourism or shocking people about what exists in the dark corners of the net. Rather, I am giving the sourced material a poetic treatment.”
Among the works on view at the MAC, the video series Kool-Aid Man in Second Life, 2008-2011, takes the form of tours of Second Life in which Rafman’s avatar, the Kool-Aid Man, guides us through astonishing micro-communities. A narrative work tinged with nostalgia, Codes of Honor, 2011, is a docu-fiction that is an homage to video arcades. The use of images found on various sites and forums is a recurring strategy in Rafman’s work, but it is especially potent in the video trilogy comprising Still Life (Betamale), 2013, Mainsqueeze, 2014, and ERYSICHTHON, a brand-new work.
Rafman continues to explore new ways of experiencing his videos: in viewing pods. He has made use of wardrobes and other furnishings, inspired as much by the world of design as the suburban vernacular, which he has equipped with screens playing his work from the last two or three years.
The artist also demonstrates an interest in the minor and major forms of art history in You Are Standing in an Open Field, 2015, a series of large-scale photographic tableaux in which the foreground is littered with computer keyboards and the backgrounds are landscapes taken from paintings from various periods.
Born in 1981, Jon Rafman lives and works in Montréal. He holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited at the New Museum in New York, Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Saatchi Gallery in London and the Contemporary Art Museum Saint-Louis. In 2014, Rafman was short-listed for the prestigious Future Generation Art Prize, awarded by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation to an artist under 35, and in 2015, he is a finalist for the Sobey Art Award. His works may be found in public collections in Canada, the United States and Europe.
Complementing the Jon Rafman exhibition
To coincide with this exhibition, the artist is presenting a selection of works from the series The Nine Eyes of Google Street View in locations outside the museum: along the Lachine canal near Atwater market and along Monk boulevard in the Sud-Ouest borough. These presentations are organized by the Maison de la culture Marie-Uguay.
Jon Rafman was organized by Mark Lanctôt, curator at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
In connection with the exhibition, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal has published Jon Rafman, a 192-page catalogue illustrated with colour and black-and-white plates. The publication includes an essay by exhibition curator Mark Lanctôt, as well as one by Sandra Rafman. Priced at $35, the catalogue is available at the MAC Boutique.
In conversation with the artist
A talk between artist Jon Rafman and exhibition curator Mark Lanctôt will take place on Thursday, June 25, at 7 p.m., in Beverley Webster Rolph Hall. The conversation will be held in English.
The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is a provincially owned corporation funded by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. It receives additional funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts. The museum gratefully acknowledges their support and that of Collection Loto-Québec, the MAC’s principal partner. The MAC also thanks La Presse, Cogeco Média and PACART Transport Québec.
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