Matthew Day Jackson & Philippe Vandenberg: Nieuw Amsterdams Peil
Matthew Day Jackson (1974, Panorama City, CA, United States) is an American multidisciplinary artist. At the crux of the artist’s corpus is a notion he refers to as ‘The Horriful’ – the belief that everything man does has the potential to bring both beauty and horror. Jackson’s work often features a combination of iconography familiar from popular culture and art history. In the work Nude and Descended (2013) for instance, Jackson is referencing a photo taken in 1947 depicting the seemingly restful body of Evenlyn Mchale, after having just plummeted from the observation deck of the Empire State Building on to the roof of Lincoln Continental. Simultaneously, the artist pays homage to Duchamp’s seminal painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, as noted in the work’s title, in the collision between the objects and materials occuring within an emotionally fraught and frighteningly beautiful scene.
For Philippe Vandenberg (1952, Ghent – 2009, Brussels, Belgium) painting was born out of necessity. Determined to depict mankind and to reveal the prevailing structures of control, the artist never ceased to formulate new questions. To this end Vandenberg’s visual language needed to evolve: “Le danger est une régression totale, une répétition pas nouvelle, qui n’ajoute ou n’enlève rien.” [The danger is outright regression, repetition that is not new, that neither enhances nor subtracts]. (1) The painting Kill Them All I (2005-2008) is the key work in this exhibition, reflecting the artist’s radical way of working and world view. Produced during a time when written words assumed a prominent place in Vandenberg’s practice, it acts as a demonstration placard demanding that the past be left behind. But it’s a mantra, too – a prayer from a painter only too aware of the impossibility
of freeing himself from old ideas and forms of expression. “Il me faut tout oublier” [I need to forget everything], Vandenberg would exclaim, warning himself against the perils of repetition that lurk around the corner. The diverse selection of works for this exhibition is meant to pay tribute to Vandenberg’s call for creative volatility and artistic sincerity. Made between 1989 and 2008, the exhibition sketches out Vandenberg’s audacious path, navigated from burlesque figuration in the late ’80s, to monochromatic painting in the mid ’90s, to finally works with words at the end of the ’2000s.