This blog’s Art of Tuesday feature will use the spotlighted artist’s name in the title rather than Art of Tuesday — for clarity, the gods of good sense and yes, the internet’s SEO patrollers.
Wildman Humanist, Folkert de Jong
Folkert de Jong, detail from The Immortals. Styrofoam, pigmented polyurethane foam. via galeriedukan.
Folkert de Jong sculpts an unsettling humanity. Styrofoam is a frequent material, along with whatever else will get his figure coming on strong. He grew up in the land of Hieronymus Bosch — the Netherlands — and it’s unlikely that the newer artist lived unaware of the Renaissance version. Yet unlike Bosch’s well controlled painting De Jong’s imprecise slapdash artmaking proves that you can apply the technique of Whatever and still reach viewers’ emotions.
De Jong works at lifesize and larger, confident, believing in the emotions he sculpts.
Folkert de Jong, The Shooting…At Watou, GOLIATH AND DAVID(S) “The Shooting…At Watou,” originally exhibited as a site- specific installation in Belgium, recalls the Eighty Years’ War between Spain, represented by the large figure, and the Netherlands. Credit Allen Phillips/Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. via New York Times.
Folkert de Jong, Mr. and Mrs. Mackintosh, 2012. Polyurethane foam, wood, metal, spray paint. via artslant.
I like this man’s art because it stays politically aware and full of heart, even if jaded. I love the emotion he can invoke and his various palettes — sometimes soft pastels, sometimes clanging colors that dare you to object. He makes maximum use of unpolished methods yet he’s a good enough artist to convince you these figures have life and intentions.
Folkert de Jong, The Death March- My Blood, My Oil, My Ass. 2007. via artslant.
De Jong, like the British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare, makes figures that aren’t mannequins in a storefront. Humanity infuses even the set of the shoulders. Disheartened, bloody confident.
Sophie Dickens has a sense of dynamics deep in her bones. The bodily mechanics of action and strength in her beasts, humans and mythological creatures you can feel in your own body, just looking, unmoving.
Below you’ll find selections from her work starting with her Satyrs in two different versions. You can appreciate what vitality the figures bring to a grouping and also how telling their placement can be.
‘I create sculptures that are based around circularity and it is interesting the momentum that they produce, especially when there is a group of sculptures’ – Sophie Dickens
Sophie Dickens, Satyrs, bronze
Sophie Dickens, Satyrs
Bronze, long-lasting, takes muscle to move it — why would you choose it as a medium in which to study evanescent changes over time? Dickens does.
Sophie Dickens, Running Dogs, cast bronze.
It’s a bit of bad luck that this intense sculptor is tagged as a descendant of Charles Dickens, he for whom a story’s pace could not be more restrained. The UK Daily Mail was overly impressed with Charles when they reviewed Sophie’s work. Thanks a lot.
For your delight I share some examples of their careful reporting: ‘…rodent art by Dickens’ descendants! ‘ and ‘Sophie Dickens, an ancestor of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens.’
Sophie Dickens, Three Pelicans
Sophie Dickens, Black Horse
Sophie Dickens, Minotaur
Sophie Dickens with one of her pelicans, photographer unknown. via theresident.co.uk.
Allegory by Maskull Lasserre (steel, wood, textile, industrial sewing machine) via his website
This arresting work by Canadian artist Maskull Lasserre is titled Allegory. My left-leaning brain was sure it was an allegory of sweat-shop garment workers rising up in wrath. Oops. Lesson A in just how slippery the word allegory can get.
To start off, the piece was commissioned by Lacoste — they sought a work that incorporated some of their polos. I want to admit that the Lacoste company has raised my esteem of corporation mentality several notches. This is one hell of a work to OK — all praise to them for their aesthetic guts.
Allegory. In Lasserre’s words, “There was something analogous about how textiles were stitched together from a pattern, and how the crocodile head was welded out of small pieces of formed sheet steel.” Lasserre minored in philosophy in college so he must be aware of the odd fit that Allegory makes for this piece. But Analogy hardly works for a sculpture that’s mythic. Inexplicable, logic-twisting, masterful.
Now add in the fact that part of the crocodile’s snout isn’t steel at all — it’s carved from the wooden sewing table and nipped out of the polos. He meant to combine both the additive and subtractive techniques of sculpture in a single form. Or flip side: to see the crocodile’s steely muscled toothy mass continue on into the absence taken from the wood and shirts. This is true to Lasserre’s vision of a reality beyond easy semblances. And it complexifies the meaning, squares it, cubes it.
Compare Lasserre’s message, which can’t be fully articulated, with the vanitas stillife, a macabre niche of historical allegory. Each object on the table below has a meaning, embodies a meaning, the skull the impermanence of human life, books the impermanence of human knowledge, purple silk the fleeting good of luxury. The illuminated void of nearly half the painting is spirituality forevermore. In the 1600s if you couldn’t decode this painting you were seriously out of touch.
I respect the Lasserre Allegory because it leaves us to find — or feel — a meaning in ourselves.
After the doctrinaire vanitas here’s a renowned allegory of Earth’s life cycle — Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera. Spring. The ongoing rush of awakening life.
Here again is the slithery nature of allegory. We all seem to agree that Spring is depicted (though I’m not clear that Botticelli named it that), but a host of would-be scholars have each seen something else depicted and have laid out evidence for their views.
I think that you can circle details, draw arrows, link this with that over there, but you can’t prove a thing. At least if we’re talking allegory — Botticelli’s reasons were buried 600 years ago. He cannot have been immune to the thoughts and happenings of his day, but whether he painted a detail with allegorical intent (skull in a vanitas) is not accesable to research. Scholars like all the rest of us project some of the meanings they detect.
I want to return now to Lasserre’s art via this ravishing detail by Botticelli. Stop and feast on the skill — the hair, skin, diaphanous draperies. Botticelli’s mastery of paint. I also admire Lasserre’s skills in sculpture.
While I don’t argue for Lasserre’s Botticellihood, what follows here will give you an idea of his skill and inventiveness with materials. This is as close as I can get us to steel crocodile teeth, that voracious lunging mouth. Expressive, impressive, convincing.
Allegory(detail) by Maskull Lasserre via his website
Migration (detail) by Maskull Lasserre bird wing bones carved into wooden coat hangers
Three stages of Lasserre’s Murderwood, carved and burned