David Altmejd makes large-scale sculptures of anthropomorphic figures cast in a state of metamorphosis. His works explore the boundaries of traditional figuration by embedding his subjects with otherworldly elements and reconceptualizing how to represent the human figure in all its spatial, spiritual and psychological multiplicity.
The New North (2007) is approximately four metres tall; its colossal dimension allows the artist to create microcosmic worlds within it. It is covered in patches of fuzzy horse hair, wires, mirrored rhomboid shapes and quartz crystals; it also has a mysterious staircase with stalagmites that hang from its steps.
Winding its way through the hollow body shape, the stairs are suggestive of mutual ascent and descent, as if inviting an exploration through an ancient cave or ruined architecture. The quasi-taxidermied structure has its own complex logic and systems, like a conceptual city or a building, living and breathing, and self-sufficient.
“When I work, the body is like a universe where I can lose myself. It is a metaphor for the landscape, nature and the mountains”, Altmejd has said. The Healers (2008), another sculpture over two metres high which is formed of wood, foam, plaster and burlap, shows wildly overlapping figures and figurative fragments – hands, wings, kneeling and kissing figures, rendered as if in the midst co-dependent, sexually charged physical agony.
Equally reminiscent of baroque compositions representing the descent of the cross as well as of 19th-century public bronze sculptures commemorating battle massacres, Altmejd’s elaborate tableau, mixing handmade craft with the illusion of a digital freeze-frame palimpsest, evokes a mood of constant alchemical mutation.