It was exciting to attend the opening of two Montreal born artists, David Altmedj and Jon Rafman at the Musee d’art contemporains de Montreal in my hometown on Friday, June 19. The museum’s choice to exhibit these two artists together provides an opportunity for the viewer to experience the unique visions of David’s visceral practice and Jon’s relationship to technology in the digital age. Previously presented in the Musee d’art modern de la Ville de Paris and MUDAM in Luxembourg, “David Altmejd: Flux” features the internationally renowned artist’s pieces over the last fifteen years. Altmedj was included in the Whitney Biennial in 2004, represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and won the Sobey Art Award in 2009. This award is presented to Canadian artists under age 40. His most recent and monumental sculpture, The Flux and The Puddle (2014) is installed in a mirrored gallery which reflects the work from each side and creates the illusion of a much larger work.
Altmejd’s approach to sculpture is characterized by its wide variety of materials, including cracked mirrors, synthetic hair, quartz, goose, feathers, coconuts and fluorescent lights and a fascination with the natural sciences and architecture. His spectacular installations of taxidermied animals, werewolf heads, and decaying giants, infuse remarkable imagination into his works. By making abrupt changes in scale, from minuscule to monumental, Altmedj finely blends the abject and the glamour relishing in it’s grotesque beauty. The artist creates the powerful forces of decay and rebirth, and ultimately makes these hybrid pieces “self-evolutionary”.
This is Jon Rafman’s first major museum show in Canada. His recent solo exhibitions include the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, 2012, his Google imagery project entitled “The Nine Eyes of Google Street View”, 2012 and the Saatchi Gallery, London , 2012. Group exhibitions include “Free at the New Museum”, New York, 2010 and “What is a Photograph?” at the International Center of Photography, New York, 2014.
Rafman investigates technology’s influence and effects of what it is to live in the world today and what it is to be a human. He claims that there is more and more data in the world and less meaning. Alternately posing as a tour guide, flaneur or ethnographer, he explores the bowels of the internet as the “Kool-Aid Man in Second Life”, 2009. He dedicated a tourist website and after watching the trailers, the participants contact the artist to book a tour online. His invention of an avatar “the Kool-Aid Man” guides them through the virtual real estate of Second Life. His virtual representation of himself allows him to assess the relationship between “virtual” and “real” participation and observation, voyeurism and exhibitionism as noted by Mark Lactot, the Curator of the Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal.
Sandra Rafman, the artist’s mother, who has championed her son’s development into a compelling artist notes how he tackles the complexity of the digital age in generating photomontages, video installations and sculpture. Through his unique use of radical and diverse media, his practice deals with alienation, loneliness, nostalgia, melancholy and the inevitable loss of love and passion. Her essay, “The Reframing of Loss in Virtual Worlds”, included in the exhibition’s catalogue is a tribute to her professional ability to analyze Jon’s work in depth and her understanding of what a young man is witnessing for his generation. A truly powerful team! Here is Jon Rafman’s Main Squeeze (2014):