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Review: Wim Devoye Exhibition at Musée Rodin (August 2010)

August 31, 2010

This exhibition has now closed, though it might be helpful to note that the gardens of the Musee Rodin will be open without charge until the end of October due to renovation work taking place at the Museum. This post went up in a less than finished form last week due to a dodgy internet connection. I hope that you will forgive the repost, but I thought it important to post the full version of the review – What do you think of Delvoye’s work? – Anna

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Wim Delvoye (b.1965) is a Belgian neo-conceptual artist who is known within the art world for his inventive and often shocking projects. While much of his work is focused on the body the three works recently on display at the Musée Rodin (in Paris) only very indirectly represent this theme if at all.

That being said, Wim Delvoye has an eclectic oeuvre, which often expresses his interest in a range of themes, including bodily function, classical form, and the Catholic Church. Here is a slideshow of some of my photos of “Tour (2009-10)” on show at Musee Rodin.

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DNA

There are three further pieces on display – the images of which can be found on the Musée Rodin website.  These other works are: “DNA”, which has double helix with with a crucified Christ repeated at each repetition of the helix; Gandagas (1988) which are Gas cansisters painted int he style of grecian urns; and Gates (marquette) which are a scale reproduction of the gates to Delvoye’s home and studio. They offer an interesting modern reinterpretation of Rodin’s own “Gates of hell”. It was interesting that in the exhibition notes that no reference was made to any theological influences on Delvoye, or any religious undertones to his work, even in the case of DNA. As I write this post I am somewhat pressed for time – let me just say that it struck me that one implication of DNA is the way in which the cross, and the necessity for the crucifixion (and atonement) is written at the basest of celluar levels. Our fallen humanity is, in fact, in our very DNA. I am skimming  here (for lack of time), but nonetheless the small collection of works were thought-provoking. Their complexity and depth raised questions for me about the construction of the body, the divine, and artistic form as worship, and all of these separate from any knowledge from the intention of the artist himself.

Delvoye is interested in concepts even more so than certain methods or techniques. Early in his career he created pieces by taking wallpaper and tiles and tracing and colouring over existing patterns. This kind of reflection, mimesis, and reinterpretation lends a certain depth to Devoye’s work. Of his approach, Robert Enright wrote in Border Crossings, “Delvoye is involved in a way of making art that reorients our understanding of how beauty can be created.”*

Gandagas 1988

I found a similar technique to that used for “Tour” explored in his gothic lace (laser-cut from wood) pieces of heavy machinery including a dump truck and a bulldozer. Seeing other examples of the same technique being used to create a cement mixer, a combine harvester and a digger changed the way I considered “Tour” especially in considering the possible theological implications of an aesthetic so connected with the gothic church.

Though he did not have a religious upbringing, Delvoye was influenced by the Roman Catholic society in which he lived, in particular the religion’s reverence of symbols. In a conversation with Michaël Amy of the New York Times, Delvoye stated, “I have vivid memories of crowds marching behind a single statue as well as of people kneeling in front of painted and carved altarpieces […] Although I was barely aware of the ideas lurking behind these types of images, I soon understood that paintings and sculptures were of great importance.”**

Also, do yourself a favour and go and look at his website – if ever the website was an expression of the artist then it is this exploration of the cartoonish and consumerist aspects of fine art!

What do these pieces evoke for you? how do you respond to “Le tour”? What about in light of the heavy machinery gothic lace pieces?

*Enright, Robert. “Vim & Vigour; An Interview with Wim Delvoye.” Border Crossings 96 (2005): n. pag. Web. 4 Jun 2010.
**Amy, Michaël. “The Body as Machine, Taken to Its Extreme.” New York Times 20 Jan. 2002

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