New York, NY… Beginning March 1, 2011, Hauser & Wirth New York will present ‘Into One-Another To P.P.P.,’ an exhibition of new sculptures and works on paper by internationally admired artist Berlinde De Bruyckere, dedicated by the artist to legendary Italian filmmaker, poet, painter, and journalist Pier Paolo Pasolini. The show serves as a foretaste of De Bruyckere’s traveling solo museum exhibition, which will debut in April at the Moritzburg Foundation in Halle, Germany, and present her work in juxtaposition with that of Pasolini and Renaissance master Lucas Cranach.
‘Into One-Another To P.P.P’ will remain on view at Hauser & Wirth New York through April 23rd.
In Pasolini, De Bruyckere has located an artistic kindred spirit who, before his violent murder in 1975, drew upon Catholic ritual, landmark European literature, Renaissance painting, and the political events of his time to create such films as ‘The Gospel According to St. Matthew,’ ‘Teorema,’ and ‘Salò.’ Graphic and disturbing, his works are parables for the degradations of modern society and the ways in which mass commercialization of the human body and sexuality can lead to the destruction of both spirituality and eros. In her work, De Bruyckere has mined the same veins of spirituality and art history – particularly the Netherlandish and Early Renaissance masterpieces of her native Belgium – and the charged, fragile state of our contemporary world, to achieve sumptuously expressionistic and deeply moving figurative sculptures and paintings on paper that are her own parables about the dualities of love and suffering, danger and protection, life and death.
At the center of ‘Into One-Another To P.P.P’ at Hauser & Wirth are three separate, magisterial sculptures, each with a name that is a numbered variation of the exhibition’s title. In these three works, human figures writhe, torque and slump inside antique glass and wood vitrines. Fashioned from wax, the gray flesh of De Bruyckere’s subjects achieves an eerie realism and paleness – a pallor familiar from the luminous paintings of Rogier van der Weyden, Hubert and Jan van Eyck, and Robert Campin, here suggestive of terror and pain but also a sophisticated sensuality. De Bruyckere employed professional dancers as models for these works, using their movements and poses as inspiration for her own strange, sculptural choreography: Each resulting wax body appears frozen in the middle of an exaggerated dance that evokes mortification, struggle, passion, and pathos. In one sculpture, De Bruyckere has locked the torsos and limbs of two figures in such a way that it is impossible to determine whether they are struggling to break apart or clinging to one another’s life force in a last effort against an inevitable and all too mortal future.
The prospect of such a future becomes shockingly possible in the exhibition’s monumental fourth sculpture, ‘Inside Me II.’ Open to air and without the safe distance afforded by a vitrine, a tangle of flesh-colored branches, all masterfully rendered in wax, call to mind a tangle of intestines and viscera. Barely cradled in heaving slings of raw fabric supported by sawhorses, they are redolent of death and decay, a memento mori with a life-affirming subtext: Every individual, including the artist herself, is a substance of the earth that ultimately will return to the source of all living things.
These sculpted bodies and remains recall the exquisite suffering of the Catholic saints and martyrs, but also of refugees and victims of contemporary traumas. De Bruyckere’s hapless souls elicit our empathy. Headless and thus without specific identities, they make us feel their terrible vulnerability while drawing us into uncomfortable complicity as witnesses.
In addition to these sculptures, ‘Into One-Another To P.P.P’ will present several suites of De Bruyckere’s latest ink and watercolor works on paper. These painted works also explore physical and spiritual states of transformation. They will be presented apart from the sculptures, as small exhibitions within the gallery’s spaces.
As in the world of Pasolini, the human body in ‘Into One-Another To P.P.P.’ becomes an object for the projection of power and a call to awareness. De Bruyckere’s fascination with the archaic mingles with – and becomes the means for expressing – a sincere preoccupation for the world as it is now. Deeply humanistic and ultimately rooted in a search for rapture and redemption, her oeuvre calls to mind these words of Pasolini: ‘The mark which has dominated all my work is this longing for life, this sense of exclusion which doesn’t lessen but augments this love of life.’