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b. 1974, Canada

David Altmejd Biography

David Altmejd's work is a unique and heady mix of science and magic, science fiction and gothic romanticism: a post-apocalyptic vision which is at the same time essentially optimistic, containing as it always does the potential for regeneration, evolution and invention.

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'A perfect object for me', the artist has said, 'is something that is extremely seductive and extremely repulsive at the same time'. Decay exists in balance with regeneration, the exquisite in tandem with the grotesque. The sculpted heads that have been Altmejd's recent focus provoke that shiver of the uncanny lifelike sculpture tends to induce, but skilfully realistic features are interspersed with crude expressionism, gobbets of raw matter or hanks of fur. They have a hallucinatory quality–vivid and startling. One head might sprout another, inverted, so that they they share a pair of eyes, or a face is split into a trio of profiles and half-a-dozen eyes, as if refracted by a kaleidoscope. In others the faces are gone, as if they have been scooped out, but the gaping wounds reveal cavities of dazzling crystal or the inside of a hollowed-out fruit, as if to collapse the categories of animal, vegetable and mineral. There is an immediate sensuality in the artist's juxtaposition of finely-wrought realism with crude gesture; the proximity of crystals and delicate gold chains with fur and abject matter suggesting ever-present decay.

In counter-balance to the aesthetic of profusion is a sculptural impulse to containment and order, evinced in gridded forms and orthogonal mirrored structures recalling Sol Lewitt or Lucas Samaras. Some of Altmejd's best-known works are his vast, labyrinthine vitrines built of Plexiglas, and often with mirrored elements. They play on the aesthetics of design and display as well as minimalism, but these structures are not simply a means to contain or protect the elements housed within. Rather, the entire structure is an organism or a machine, making visible the processes of growth and decay, generation and destruction that take place inside it. Movement is frozen, but sculptural elements are animated through repetition and incremental change, like the stuttering frames of stop-motion film.

Altmejd described himself early in his career as a 'process artist'. His works not only reveal the process of their making, but suggest that those processes have simply been paused in their unfolding. His monochrome relief panels are austere in comparison to the heads, focusing our attention on the plaster-like material and the actions wrought on it−where it has fallen in wet splats, where a brittle, chalky surface is scratched or fractured, where hands have gouged and clawed. Hands themselves, in cast form, appear and multiply in some of the sculptures, fostering the illusion that the works create themselves. Monumental figures, such as the Bodybuilders and the Watchers, are similarly engaged in their own making or unmaking, sprouting hands that clutch and mould the very substance of their bodies.

David Altmejd was born in Montreal in 1974 and lives and works in Los Angeles. He studied at the University of Quebec in Montreal and graduated with an MFA from Columbia University, New York in 2001. His numerous international exhibitions include a major survey exhibition, Flux, which travelled from Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris to the MUDAM in Luxembourg and the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal, Canada (2014-15). In 2007 he represented Canada at the 52nd Venice Biennale with his installation The Index, and he was included in the Istanbul and Whitney Biennials in 2003 and 2004 respectively.

Text courtesy White Cube.

Exhibition view: David Altmejd, The Enlightenment of the Witch, David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (15 May–2 July 2021). Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery.

David Altmejd Featured Artworks

Spirit Transfer by David Altmejd contemporary artwork
David AltmejdSpirit Transfer, 2019Expandable foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, resin, wood, steel, hair, acrylic paint, quartz, glass eyes, pencil, mechanical pencil, metal wire, and glass rhinestones
71.1 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm
David Kordansky Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled 14 (Guides) by David Altmejd contemporary artwork
David AltmejdUntitled 14 (Guides)Wood, mirror, acrylic paint
185.4 x 78.7 x 64.8 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
La charge by David Altmejd contemporary artwork
David AltmejdLa charge, 2016Bronze
182.5 x 52 x 48 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Flag Burning by David Altmejd contemporary artwork
David AltmejdFlag Burning, 2017Aqua resin, epoxy resin, fiberglass, steel, aluminum, graphite, MSA varnish
114.3 x 94 x 13.9 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery
Pilgrims by David Altmejd contemporary artwork
David AltmejdPilgrims, 2017Resin, expanded polyurethane foam, expanded polystyrene foam, epoxy clay, epoxy gel, steel, concrete, cast glass, steel wire, bronze, glass eyes, coconut shell, acrylic paint, graphite, synthetic hair
67 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm
Xavier Hufkens Contact Gallery

David Altmejd Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, David Altmejd, The Enlightenment of the Witch at David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles
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15 May–2 July 2021 David Altmejd The Enlightenment of the Witch David Kordansky GalleryLos Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, David Altmejd, Rabbits at Xavier Hufkens, Van Eyck, Brussels
Closed
3 September–17 October 2020 David Altmejd Rabbits Xavier HufkensVan Eyck
Contemporary art exhibition, David Altmejd, L'air at Xavier Hufkens, St-Georges, Brussels
Closed
4 March–9 April 2016 David Altmejd L'air Xavier HufkensSt-Georges

David Altmejd Represented By

David Altmejd In Ocula Magazine

Art Basel in Hong Kong: Exhibitions to See Ocula Feature Art Basel in Hong Kong: Exhibitions to See By Tessa Moldan, Hong Kong

For those visiting Art Basel in Hong Kong (29–31 March 2019), find out what is currently making the city's art scene tick with this guide of exhibitions to see.

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David Altmejd In Related Press

Preview: Art Brussels Related Press Preview: Art Brussels 19 April 2017, Elephant

'Art Brussels believes in galleries that support their artists throughout their evolution... We are definitely not interested in showing work in a supermarket-like style.' We speak with Anne Vierstraete, Managing Director of Art Brussels, as the fair nears its thirty-fifth edition.

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The art of management: Interview with Jennifer Flay, Director of FIAC 2016 Related Press The art of management: Interview with Jennifer Flay, Director of FIAC 2016 18 October 2016, AMA

Director of FIAC, Jennifer Flay shares with AMA the spirit of this 43rd edition.  AMA: What are the FIAC’s strengths this year? Jennifer Flay:  We’re very proud of the creation of On Site, found inside and around the Petit Palais; we’ve given the project this name to distinguish it clearly from the Hors...

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Shortlist announced for Canada's 2016 Sobey Art Award Related Press Shortlist announced for Canada's 2016 Sobey Art Award 2 June 2016, Artforum

The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada announced today the five artists who have been shortlisted for the 2016 Sobey Art Award.

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David Altmejd In Video & Audio

David Altmejd: The Heart is a Werewolf Related Video & Audio David Altmejd: The Heart is a Werewolf 16 March 2016, Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

David Altmejd was interviewed by Christian Lund at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in November 2015 in connection to the exhibition of his 328 x 640 x 714 centimetres sculpture The Flux and the Puddle  (2014). Among the many materials used for the sculpture are wax, mirrors, plaster, latex, feathers, ink, wood, steel wire and...

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