» MOLDING/UNMOLDING/REMOLDING «
December 11 — January 23, 2021
Opening: December 10, 2020, 11 am
Jonas Wijtenburg sets out to achieve something quite extraordinary— perhaps utopian — but necessary. Nothing and no one can say if he will succeed — which, of course, is definitely not the main point — but the attempt is a marvelous work of art in itself. His initiative outlines the shape of a dialogue — or, more precisely, of different dialogues. It combines the ones which gave birth to philosophy, to the concept of humanity, to the eventuality of a transcendental conjecture steering us toward the future. At the centre of this infinite discussion, Jonas Wijtenburg puts humanity in its relation to the world and its immediate context. In the present case, he questions the dehumanization of an uncontrolled speed, the violence engendered by uncertainty, the feeling of emptiness and loss we are currently facing. His answer takes form as an impressive compression of time and expansion of space — and vice versa — and lets discern a glimpse of light on the horizon.
It is surprising sometimes to realize that art is just art, and somehow much bigger than art at the same time. Molding/Unmolding/Remolding, Jonas Wijtenburg’s new exhibition at Lily Robert in Paris, is a paradigmatic expression of this internal surpassing. Actually, it makes explicit through a series of dualities — conflictual forces which the artist always attempts to reunify, which are a constant in his work. Let’s explain this opposition with one simple example: monumentality versus flexibility. The two terms seem irreconcilable, yet the Dutch artist holds in his art the alchemical secret of this unlikely harmony.
First, we could say that the exhibition at a gallery size is a true demonstration of the strength of his work. It shows how perpetual flexibility can be considered at a micro- and macro- dimension. This inner change can be seen in the cell, the human body, the tree or the bird; but it appears similarly to the Earth or to the Universe. Moreover, it infiltrates time through evolution — not in the illusory nonsense of progress, but in the fascinating adaptation of Life. In this way, the works exhibited reveal those mutations and adaptations. The wooden structures leave their static postures as plinths and become modular; the ceramic portraits look all different but contain the same core, like an architectural backbone. The immobility moves like in a Giacinto Scelsi piece of music. Time diffracts itself when 3D printing foreshadows the Greek Antiquity to come. The space yields when Jonas Wijtenburg gives life to a bold and updated vision of André Malraux’s imaginary museum.
Consequently, how to reunite the Polis citizen, the Enlightenment ideal and the nitzschean übermensch ; how to reconcile temperance, moderation and control with grandeur and flamboyance? How to be constantly changing while staying the same? Jonas Wijtenburg decided not to oppose, but to insert flexibility into monumentality. By doing so, he tries to help us confront the great challenges of the period, and to fix the issues aforementioned: his work aims to humanize the uncontrolled speed, to illuminate the uncertainty created by emptiness, to propose a deconstruction out which would annihilate the loss.
But he quickly and wisely became aware that such a landmark could not be something only rooted in the past, nor only looking forward— either would result in a pitiful effort to resist unstoppable forces, moving blindly and stuck in an infinite spiral of movement for movement's sake. Thus, his series of ceramic portraits are mere models of this idea. Deeply conscious of their resilient links to a glorious and tragic past, he turns their seeming fragility into a display of power; and their variations offer a glimpse of their incredible capacity of mutation allowed by the virtuosity of the spiritual and material implementations, outlining the realm of ideas with the realm of objects.
But this idea of monumentality vs. flexibility is perhaps best incarnated by the process of mold-making, which gives its name to the exhibition. Imagine flexibility like a mold for the monumental — that is to say, that variation creates the structure. Thereby, Jonas Wijtenburg shapes his mold as the true work of art, the cradle of his visions. The fascinating part is that the mold adheres to the cast form not only like a skin, or the body to the spirit: the mold determines the work in a reversed temporality, and gives meaning to the space in-between. The artworks are not longer captives of the embalmer museums; the open source digital realm broke the chains and offered us the possibility to encounter works which are no longer static. The examples of the Doryphoros portraits here are meaningful: Jonas Wijtenburg developed a "new original" (digitalized and 3D-printed) to serve as a model to make molds. What happens next is part of the magic you are experiencing in the exhibition — the shape of the mold is like the context surrounding the works installed in the gallery. He no longer contents himself with variations around optional versions of a multiplied original — he works directly on our perceptions as a raw material. Then, you can extend the relation of the portraits to the absent mold to the structures, and continue to trace back to the artist’s mind — which ultimately comes back to the origins of art, where our future belongs.