artist / participant
Berlinde De Bruyckere. Aletheia
01.11.2019 - 15.03.2020
Opening 01.11.2019 19:00
Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo presents Aletheia, a large monographic exhibition dedicated to the work of Berlinde De Bruyckere (Ghent, 1964).
With her sculptures, De Bruyckere investigates universal themes such as the suffering body, pain and memory, and the need to overcome and transform. Consistently drawing from art history and mythology, as well as the everyday reality of failing social structures, De Bruyckere creates work with a strong emotional impact, whose materiality invites the viewer to reflect on the human condition. On this occasion, the artist has conceived a condensed body of work that is displayed throughout the entire exhibition space of the Foundation in order to create an organic narrative – an intense dramaturgy developing from distinct monumental sculptures to culminate in a large, environmental installation. While the exhibition was conceived as a response to the Foundation’s specific architecture and its wide minimalistic spaces, it draws inspiration from a place that the artist visited in the recent past and that has influenced her work ever since: a skin trader workshop in Anderlecht, Belgium. Here, the freshly flayed animal hides get piled up onto large pallets and covered in salt, to protect and preserve them for future treatments. The extreme violence that has been perpetrated is evident, recent; but it appears muffled by ritual-like gestures of attentive care. As a repository of powerful images and extreme sensations, of vast anonymous death and the emergence of something new, the place materializes themes that are key to the artist’s research: the complex relations between life and death, Eros and Thanatos, beauty and anguish. It is a repulsive place, and yet it is able to evoke an ideal of sacredness in relation to the body’s mortal coils, hereby incarnating the core of Berlinde De Bruyckere’s work: the question of how to face the intolerable, and how to redeem it.
The figure of the animal skin plays a key role in the narrative developed by the artist, both in denotative and connotative terms. The hides are subjected by the artist to a series of different operations: cast and reproduced in wax, folded and draped upon heavy iron structures, constrained and deformed. These are all key actions within an ambiguous visual dictionary in which abstraction and figuration collapse, resulting in sculpted volumes of minimalist impression, whose solidity is contradicted by their fragile materiality and delicate tones.
While being evocative of an act of cruelty and suffering, the skin alludes to the body through its very absence: it is an ambivalent image that speaks of wounds and contact, of wrongs and comfort. In this metaphorical shift, the animal skin takes the place of the human figure within the work of the artist, in order to carry the theme of the suffering of living beings – the unspeakable plight of the tragedies that characterize our time at an unprecedented scale. In the words of the artist, “At this moment in time, where extremism and racism proliferate, where compassion and solidarity have withered, where we see so many resemblances to the restlessness of the late 30’s that preceded the unspeakable monstrosities of the Holocaust, where this particular defamation of civilization is being questioned and denied by people with too much political power, I feel the need to bring bold, strong images – to bring this room to the audience as a sensatory, immersive experience.”
Exhibition curated by Irene Calderoni