The hard-hitting, ruptured, scarred, molten, carnal sculptures of the Belgian sculptor Berlinde De Bruyckere await those of you who will be in London and/or Ghent this winter.
De Bruyckere’s show, “Met tere huid/Of tender skin,” comprised of gorgeous (and intestinal) wax, leather, cloth, rope, iron and epoxy resin hanging wall sculptures, drawings, and hulking encaustic and wood sculptures are up at Hauser & Wirth in London for a couple of more weeks, while a 100-plus piece mid-career retrospective is on at S.M.A.K., Ghent through the middle of February.
The only shows of De Bruyckere’s that I have gotten to see have been here in New York, the latest in 2011, but this description from Huaser & Wirth of “After Cripplewood 1, 2013-2014” gives an abiding sense of what to expect when confronted by her sculptures:
This large-scale encaustic sculpture is an abstraction of fallen tree trunks, bound together with tattered fabric and subtly pigmented using a palette that closely resembles human flesh. The anthropomorphic waxy forms appear as rheumatoid joints and bone, bandaged as if undergoing a prolonged healing process. The work rests on a makeshift trestle that recalls a medical stretcher – a visual reference that De Bruyckere has used in previous work. In contrast to the bare wooden planks forming the trestle, the gnarled and calcified mass of ‘After Cripplewood I, 2013 – 2014’ appears living, though momentarily silenced.
A random collection of words and phrases from the gallery’s writing on her work hammers away at its irrepressible materiality: bulbous, slack, state of collapse, innards spilling from cavities, bodily tones of horse as opposed to human skin, stillness… a rawness that both repels and attracts.
Or, as she put herself, recalling a visit to a skin trader in Anderlecht, Belgium,
Maybe it was the amount of available skins, neatly stacked on iron pallets, or the smell of freshly slaughtered animals, the salt on the ground mingling with blood into a wet slush, I still don’t know, but I saw powerful images. I was unable to avert my eyes… I knew I had witnessed something I needed to transcribe.
The S.M.A.K. provides an excellent multi-lingual discussion of De Bruyckere on its website and their summation is apt: ‘The vulnerability of man, which is her chief theme, and the suffering body, which is the source or her visual idiom.”
Just for you this holiday season.
Berlinde De Bruyckere “Met tere huid / Of tender skin” at Hauser & Wirth, London through January 10, 2015.
Berlinde De Bruyckere ‘Sculptures & Drawings. 2000-2014’ at S.M.A.K., Ghent through February 15, 2015.
Images courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.