Made from diverse, incongruous materials including epoxy clay and expanded foam, David Altmejd's sculpted figures and mixed-media environments are both surreal and complex.Read More
Born in 1974 in Montreal, David Altmejd was interested in science and geology from a young age. He studied art at the Université du Québec à Montréal, graduating with a BFA in 1998; and in 2001, gaining an MFA from Columbia University in New York.
David Altmejd's early works reflect a developing interest in sculpture's ability to evoke life and energy. Indicative of this is Bouquet No. 4 (1997), in which synthetic blooms of flowers gyrate on wall-mounted motors; and Table No. 2 (1998), in which three motorised wigs vibrate atop a table.
In the early 2000s, David Altmejd began to make werewolf heads and other mythical, part-man, part-beast creations. A composite of materials including synthetic hair, plaster, epoxy, acrylic paint, glass eyes, crystals and cheap jewels, the sculptures evoke tropes from Victorian-era horror novels.
As a whole, these figures explore bodily transformation through both mythical metamorphosis and deathly decay. Appearing post-mortem, the fantastical creatures sprout crystals and other strange extrusions. Werewolf No. 1 (2000), for example, presents an intricately rendered head embedded with faux gems; while Werewolf No.2 exudes crystals from its skull.
Often, Altmejd places his sculptures within Perspex vitrines and mirrored constructions alongside a myriad of disassociated objects. Elements within David Almejd's Perspex labyrinths of objects and iconography are linked by conduits such as gold chains, branches, threads. Each work forms a biological whole, as David Altmejd explains: 'I see my installations as living organisms'.
The sprawling 2003 installation Delicate Men in Positions of Power features a latticed structure made of three platforms, crystals, plastic flora, Stars of David, cheap trinkets and a disintegrating werewolf corpse sprouting crystals and bejewelled garlands. This approach carried through to later works such as Le guide (2010), in which mixed-media components form a dragon-like form.
Another of Altmejd's largest projects, The Flux and the Puddle (2014), presents a massive labyrinth of Perspex cases containing objects, and sculpted creatures. Barely fitting inside the artist's studio, Almejd explained he worked from the inside, working from tables and furniture that remain in the installation.
In comparison to his sprawling mixed-media vitrines, David Altmejd's white monochrome reliefs on aqua resin and fibreglass are more congruous materially, but no less busy. In works like Le Saut (2017) and Flag Burning (2017), fingers and hand-like forms seemingly claw out from and shape the picture planes themselves.
David Altmejd's solo exhibitions include The Enlightenment of the Witch, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2021); Rabbits, Xavier Hufkens, Brussels (2020); Giants, Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium (2016); The Flux and the Puddle, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek (2015); Flux, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2014); The Orbit, MOCA Cleveland, Ohio (2012); Doctor Atomic, Gallery Met at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York (2008).
In 2007, the New-York based sculptor represented Canada at the 52nd Venice Biennale.
David Altmejd's group exhibitions include Zombies: Pay Attention!, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado (2018); Voyage d'Hiver, Château de Versailles, Versailles (2017); A Brief History of the Future, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels (2015); Contemplating the Void, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); Between Spaces, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2009); Stimuli, Maison de la Culture Frontenac, Montréal (1998).
David Altmejd's Instagram can be found here.
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2021