David Altmejd: Faces at Modern Art
David Altmejd is bound unequivocally to the human form, but never restrained by it. It’s his canvas: a jumping-off point from which he wanders in a hundred intriguing directions, moving so far from it in, in fact, that he pushes the boundaries of what’s recognisable as corporeal. In his current exhibition at Modern Art, the focus of his work should be razor sharp, but the “faces” on display push out in every direction.
Traditional forms are moulded and then inexpertly reformed using a range of methods to create a gallery of grotesqueries. Agonised faces are flipped and used as the base of a second, less refined grinning head with caricatured plasticine features. The result is deeply uncanny, as your subconscious attempts to reconcile two forms simultaneously: one, well realised but inverted and left to the background, and a second, more prominent but far less lifelike.
Elsewhere, horrifying forms seemingly made up of tissue and fat – although silicone and acrylic are far more likely candidates – are mounted prominently above head height, while caved-in visages litter the floor, discarded. Altmejd fuses contrasting and seemingly disparate themes and materials as flesh gives way to crystal, and living images are combined with evidence of aged artifacts.
None of the pieces derive from the world as we know it, adding a magical quality to the immediate grotesqueness. But Altmejd doesn’t hide his process or even the materials that constitute each piece; he does, in fact, revel in their manufacture. The metals, paints, plasters, clays, foams and gels are easily discernible from one another, while working hands are left paused in the motion of creating new exhibits.
The highlight of the Canadian artist’s work? Somehow, most pieces manage retain the twisted intrigue of a gory horror film with very little actual blood and guts. It’s unsettling: the stuff of nightmares. But none of the emotional responses are cheap, and the exhibition is intriguing and original.
Joe Manners Lewis
Faces is on at Modern Art until 14th February 2015, for further information visit here.