* Images 1 - 3 Installation Views from Folkert de Jong, "Thousand Years Business As Usual" at James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai - November 14, 2008 - January 17, 2009
Images 4 - 6 Installation Views from Folkert de Jong, "Les Saltimbanques" October 20 - November 24, 2007, James Cohan Ballery, New York
Drysdale, Rebekah, “Folkert de Jong,” DailyServing.com, November 18, 2008
The new James Cohan Gallery in Shanghai is currently exhibiting work by Dutch sculptor Folkert de Jong. The artist's large scale narrative installations often reference themes of war, big business, and global greed, as well as the history of art. This particular body of work takes Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory and applies it to competition between the nations.
The new work, entitled Thousand Years Business as Usual, includes three sculptural tableaux composed of industrial Styrofoam and Polyurethane insulation foam. The main installation, Early Years, consists of 7 anthropomorphized monkeys arranged in a loose circle, alluding to Matisse's The Dance of 1901. They are precariously positioned atop oil barrels, with one foot suspended in the air. Covered with a sloppy application of black pigment, these simian characters appear to be plucked from a horror movie. This circular format not only quotes a Modern master, but also references the cycle of life and evolutionary (and artistic) progression. In addition to their role in evolutionary theory, monkeys are also the most versatile sign in the Chinese zodiac. In Business As Usual-The Tower, 3 monkeys are stacked one on top of the other on an oil barrel, miming the cautionary statement "See no evil, hear no evil, say no evil."
De Jong's choice of materials holds symbolic significance, for the insulation itself is a petroleum product. Styrofoam has no sculptural precedent and was originally used by Americans in World War II to create blue lift rafts that were barely visible on the water. After the war, Styrofoam was absorbed into our daily lives after several companies developed the "Styrofoam Plan" in the 50s, an effort to replace other materials. War leads to innovation and progress and slowly this technology is incorporated into mass culture. While both Styrofoam and Polyurethane are mixed with the same chemical components, Styrofoam has a rigid closed cell structure, while the Polyurethane foam allows the artist to develop more organic forms due to its fluidity.
Folkert de Jong studied at the Academy of Visual Arts and the Rijksacademy for Visual Arts, both in Amsterdam, where the artist currently lives and works. He has had several solo shows, one at James Cohan in New York last year as well as Peres Projects in Berlin. de Jong won the Prix de Rome in 2003 for sculpture and has been influenced by artists such as George Grosz and Otto Dix. DailyServing has featured the artist twice, in 2006 and 2007.
Edited text by Michaël Amy, Sculpture June 2008 Vol. 27. No 5
Folkert de Jong aims for the solar plexus. His life-sized figures, grouped in open tableau-like arrangements, are startling. Made from Styrofoam and polyurethane foam, they strike archaizing poses fraught with allusions to earlier art, appearing brittle, yet on the verge of collapse, oozing in places and liquefying in others. Through an unorthodox choice of materials gleaned from the worlds of chemistry and industry, de Jong’s statues manage to bypass the colors, textures, hardness, and weight we generally associate with sculpture. The artificial hues inherent in his materials are accentuated by slapdash applications of contrasting paint. Seemingly on the verge of decomposition, these grotesquely expressive actors resemble the dead miraculously come alive. Beauty is out. War is among de Jong’s chief subjects, and with it, big business, greed, and power in its various guises. The Dutch artist has chosen his theme wisely, for the subject of war never goes out of fashion, and few contemporary artists dare tackle it in such an innovative and idiosyncratic way. Folkert de Jong takes no prisoners. His work has been featured in numerous group shows and more than 10 solo exhibitions.
The show is a reflection of Liu Bolin's multifaceted and complex view of contemporary society and culture. The critically acclaimed and internationally renowned artist will release the first works of a new series, Hiding in California.