In just a few years, David Altmejd has achieved an enviable place on the global art scene. The sheer individuality of his work makes him one of the most significant artists of his generation. David Altmejd is his first major exhibition touring in Canada and also his first major solo exhibition in Canada outside Montréal.
Altmejd's research is about energy and metamorphosis. He creates miniaturized architectural structures that weave a horror-movie/Baroque-type of aesthetic with a reference to modern architecture and minimalist sculpture. The werewolf is Altmejd's recurring motif—its decaying flesh is bedecked with crystals and jewellery, while its habitats are sprawling platforms, box-like rooms, mirrored surfaces and Plexiglas shelves, connected at different levels by flights of steps, and lit from many sources.
This exhibition differs from the usual travelling exhibition as Altmejd has tailor-made his work to relate to the unique site of Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens. The David Altmejd exhibition literally morphs into a project specifically for Oakville Galleries as the artist responds to the domestic nature of this site—to its history, its use as shelter and to issues of public and private.
His complex, labyrinthine work, populated by ghoulish entities drawn from fairy tales, Greek mythology and Hollywood B-movies, juxtaposes a modernist architectural model with a teeming world of sensory excess. Philosophical and literary references, particularly that of Jorge Luis Borges, articulate a visual obsession with the metamorphosis of the body. Altmejd's use of materials is opulent, complex and evocatively incongruous. His idiosyncratic formal vocabulary—quasi modernist display environments sexed-up with mirrored surfaces, theatrical lighting and costume jewellery, all orchestrated to create sprawling disco sarcophagi for broken werewolf corpses—is already a riot of psychological tropes. Death and desire, the self and the other, decay and transformation—all are explicit in the forms and contexts of Altmejd's grotesqueries. Seen within the confines of a former old estate, the setting provides a resonance which emphasizes the dialectics inherent in the work, such as inside-outside, architecture-nature, man-animal and so on.
David Altmejd, born in Montréal, lives and works in Montréal, New York and London. He has degrees in visual art from UQAM (BA, 1998) and Columbia University (MFA, 2001). His work has been shown in Québec, the United States and Europe. Altmejd has notably participated in the Istanbul (2003) and Whitney (2004) Biennials, and will represent Canada at the 2007 Venice Biennale in an exhibition curated by Louise Déry and produced by the Galerie de l'Université du Québec à Montréal.
This travelling exhibition, David Altmejd, is curated by Louise Déry and produced by the Galerie de l'Université du Québec à Montréal (Galerie de l'UQAM) with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and Heritage Canada.