David Altmejd makes sculptures that do not reference a single object, they reference the entire universe. His inspiration is life and all the living things in our physical world, mountains, streams, rivers, plants, and trees. There is a little bit of life in everything, and that is his mantra. This philosophy helps him to overcome the distinctions of the soul inside the sculpture and the external body, the only visible one. When it comes to style, Altmejd places his work between figurative and abstract.
Biography and Education
Altmejd attended Université du Québec à Montréal and later continued his education at the Columbia University, where he graduated with MA in Fine Arts. David Altmejd has been producing work continuously, through his studies, and especially when he graduated. He participated in many group shows. What was a personal breakthrough for him, is the participation at the 8th International Istanbul Biennale in 2003. Just a year later he was included as a cooperator at the USA Whitney Biennale of American Art. The crown of the biennale success was his representation of Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2007. He competed with the installation called The Index, which is one of his largest pieces. Index was made of steel, plexiglass, glass, silicone, taxidermy birds and animals, trees, hair, even jewelry, and glitter! He assembled this piece by connecting elements to steel structures. The purpose of mirrors was to make the viewer experience the assemblage even larger. That is what Altmejd usually does, he challenges the viewer to come close, and when he arrives, he transcends into another universe. Also, the mirrors are carefully placed, to the viewer could see his or her reflection, and have the impression that he/she is the part of the experience. He likes to use his art in contemporary purposes and in 2016 he designed the album cover for the alternative rock band Yeasayer’s album.
In 2016, Altmejd designed a cover for the album of the rock band Yeasayer
Reference Behind the Assembled Images
A year after the Venice Biennale, in 2008, David Altmejd made one of his most delicate and tactful pieces. The Healers is a large piece, over two meters, made of wood, plaster, and foam. The accent was on human interaction, on physical contact, on the closeness that heals. The figures exude dynamic energy and warmth of human touch. Their features almost overlap and their elements intertwine. The hands are touching, figures are kissing, standing up, kneeling, filled with passion and lust. The positions they are in are suggestive and powered with desire for connection. The artist carefully combines contemporary elements, sometimes inspired by graffiti, other times by consumer and popular culture, with classical elements, baroque essentials, and religious motive. Together the elements shine in cohesion, apart they represent a random group of objects. However, every single one of the objects has a symbolic reference. They are the ones that give hints and clues, to the viewer could have a coherent story.
David Altmejd is one of those artists who equally emphasizes the tools and the material
For the Support of Matter
David Altmejd’s creations are comprehensive objects with many stories to tell. What they represent and what is hidden under the surface transcends the simple symbolic references. Altmejd also does not like to leave any obvious clues. He likes to dedicate the carrying power of the idea to the material, so every type of matter from his large diapason has a certain story to tell. It is probably more obvious when it comes to flowers, mirrors, birds, and animals. But even foam, plastic, human clothes, everything that was ever found in his sculptures was there with intention and explanation. Idea and concept are not his main interests. It is the bare act of making, of creation that motivates him. That is the reason he puts meaning in the second place. The theme Altmejd creates under is placed somewhere between a universal need for purpose, human emotion, sexuality, the circle of life, beginnings and ends.
David Altmejd lives and works in New York.
All images courtesy of the artist