From 11 October 2009 to 11 April 2010, the Groninger Museum will present the first large-scale solo exhibition of the work of artist Folkert de Jong (Egmond aan Zee, 1972) in the Netherlands. The exhibition displays a large selection of sculptures, drawings that have not been shown previously, and new monumental work.
Folkert de Jong is one of the most striking Dutch artists of the moment who has made an international breakthrough. With his work The Iceman Cometh, 2001, De Jong was represented in the group exhibition entitled Stroomversnelling (Rapids) in the Groninger Museum and now returns, after 8 years, with a substantial solo show on two storeys of the Groninger Museum. Besides a large selection of sculptures, the exhibition shows the debut of drawings that have not been seen before. In addition to works on loan from Europe, the United States and Canada, there is also a new monumental work on display, which De Jong made for the collection of the Groninger Museum.
Folkert de Jong is renowned for his life-size groups of figures that are made of Styrofoam and polyurethane foam, which is used as insulation material in construction, architecture and decor-building in the Hollywood film industry. With this material, not typically used in art and originating from the petrochemical industry, De Jong creates remarkable and complex tableaux of grotesque worlds whose themes are power, violence, disaster, and other unsettling aspects of the human condition. Intrigued by the caverns of the human soul, the artist drags the spectator to the world where the bizarre and the vulnerable converge.
In the course of the years, the sculptures of Folkert de Jong have become more virtuoso and pictorial in technical terms. His groups of figures seem to arise out of the material without any difficulty. The first figures appear rough and unfinished. They are mainly monochrome blue and pink, the colours of the material Styrofoam itself. Later De Jong introduced a richer colour palette in his works and he manages to smartly combine figuration, abstraction and symbols. The figures are often as large as life, which gives the viewer the opportunity to relate to the sculptures and to feel a witness to the engrossing, often sinister scenes, such as those of The Iceman Cometh and Cyan Kali.
Les Saltimbanques, a more recent group of figures that seem to have walked out of the series of paintings of the same name by Picasso from 1905, forms a significant turning point in De Jong’s oeuvre. Instead of the threat of suppressed aggression, reflection on the artist’s profession is an important theme in this work. De Jong used the melancholy images, ‘frozen in time’, as a metaphor for the role of the artist in society.
De Jong’s sculptures have been included in private and public collections worldwide, such as those of the Saatchi Collection London, Margulies Collection Miami, Chadha Collection Amsterdam, HVCCA Museum New York, Gemeentemuseum The Hague, MOCA Los Angeles and the Musée des Beaux-arts in Montreal. Folkert de Jong studied at the Rijksakademie of Art in Amsterdam, and has received various prizes for his work, including the Prix de Rome Sculpture, The Hague Sculpture Award and the Charlotte Köhler Prize.
This exhibition has been compiled by the curators of the Groninger Museum: Sue-an van der Zijpp and Mark Wilson in conjunction with OFFICE For Contemporary Art, Amsterdam.