Thursday, February 11, 2016

Berlinde De Bruyckere, No Life Lost at Hauser & Wirth

Berlinde De Bruyckere’s show was like walking into a cave; mischievous placed lights so that not everything was illuminated. Beautiful taxidermied horses piled on top of each other, with the weight of their useless bodies evident, their carcasses stuffed inside a vitrine. A baby colt twisted on top of a table as if on display as a precious centerpiece. Hanging carcasses from iron beams that smelled of preserves, of wax, insinuating that yes, this is a casting of something that was once alive and is now decaying. An encaustic covered tree almost the size of the 5,000 square foot room it was resting in. No, not resting- dead.

No Life Lost is subtle in its use of material: tricking a viewer into the allure of its guttural nature, with the use of the manipulated corpses.

Works that are full of meaning are hard to look at. Once majestic, dead horses and trees become metaphors for contemporary values: a consumer culture that leaves us wanting something better, scrutinizing ourselves for the way we look and not caring beyond the aesthetic.  

De Bruyckere is challenging an audience to consider with what purpose they should live their lives by giving us her unwavering answer; pretty things become pretty empty.

to Zurbaran, 2015

to Zurbaran, 2015, 2015
Horse skin, fabric, wood, iron, polyester
116.8 x 160 x 127 cm / 46 x 63 x 50 in 
Photo: Mirjam Devriendt

Kreupelhout – Cripplewood, 2012 – 2013

Kreupelhout – Cripplewood, 2012 – 2013, 2013
Wax, epoxy, iron, wood, fabric, blankets, rope
230 x 1790 x 410 cm / 90 1/2 x 704 3/4 x 161 3/8 in 
Photo: Mirjam Devriendt


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  3. Sorry for deletion...noticed egregious typo late:

    That was an exhibition with powerful imagery and I fear that your opening paragraph tells the reader the content of the exhibition without transporting them into the space. It’s a good list, but I’m not sure it works here. You make interesting claims in the later paragraphs that I think leave room for expansion, though. For instance, “Once majestic, dead horses and trees…” is a loaded sentence for which I want to know more, especially since the artist claims to be dealing with pre-modernist European painting and religious imagery. It is interesting to relate the piece to consumer culture, but what is this void of consumer culture? In what ways does society not understand others? How are these object metaphors for contemporary values? And how do the artworks illustrate these phenomenon? None of these were apparent in my reading.

  4. Sorry. I noticed there are some requirements for comments, so I made some editions on older version.

    I like your description of the show, very detailed and vivid. And your structure is also very clear for us to understand. But I think if you can talk about these works with the context of the artist’s other works would be better for us to capture the unique values of this show. It’s a great exhibition with some kind of tragic beauty. The dead bodies of horses have such a strong power to lift the subject beyond the simple representational scene. And the lights on dead bodies make them even more sacred. They all have monumental feelings. Such kind of grand theme is very difficult to present, but De Bruyckere did it very well. For example the work named Cripplewood, the whole thing is a fictional creature. It is just lying there, but everyone can feel it’s energy-the energy of death. It is not terrifying but a feeling of love. I think at that moment, our nature of love was been recalled.

  5. De Bruyckere installation at Hauser & Wirth is nothing less than impressive. The dead horses and the encaustic tree are intriguing not for their lack of life, but for addressing life itself in a very straightforward way. The sculptures emanate a presence that relate to all life that was in there before the act of creation (the artist’s creation) took place. De Bruyckere actually inverts the idea of creation by displaying the ugliness of death as a reminder of life. This conflict comes naturally in her work and the reference to religious imagery is brought about as a consequence of it.