With a masterful hand and a palette of perverse synthetic colors, Folkert de Jong's sculptural installation casts an illusion of an uncanny and dreamlike nihilism. "Gott Mit Uns (In God We Trust)" is an allegory of pathological male violence, explicated in sculptural figures playing out the rituals of war, such as a wartime pillage of a modern art museum. De Jong's work relates to a lineage of artists using war to depict psychological turmoil and the darker side of the human condition, in particular Goya's "Disasters of War" (1814-20).
De Jong's narrative begins with a soldier taking photographs of a number of other uniformed soldiers (American, German, or British) who are seated on, standing on, and around a traditional looking museum style, oval sofa. The figures are observing, urinating on, and defacing icons of modern works of art such as Hans (Jean) Arp's biomorphic figures created in the 1940s and 50s, including "Star" (1956), and Constantin Brancusi's "The Sorceress" (1916), "Bird in Space" (1923) and (now collapsed onto the floor) "Endless Column" (1934).
De Jong is commenting on the various dichotomies inherent in conflict, transformation, and art'such as the calm, quiet atmosphere of an art museum that is disrupted by the aggressive activity of invading soldiers; the attempted domination of a population through the destruction of its cultural artifacts; the persona of individuals being mutated by the wearing of uniforms; and the conversion of various liquid, synthetic substances into solid, sculptural materials.
A related group of four, large-scale objects is derived from Pez candy dispensers that are made to resemble monumental, classical and heroic busts of antique leaders atop tall pedestals. But de Jong's busts are representations of contemporary icons, such as characters from Star Wars movies and Abraham Lincoln. These objects represent modern symbols of cinema, commerce, and history and allude to a continued looting of cultural artifacts. They also stand like pawns on a chessboard and signify the plotting of military movements like a game of chess.
Folkert De Jong was born in Alkmaar, Netherlands, in 1972. He attended the Academy for Visual Arts, Amsterdam, and was awarded the Prix de Rome for sculpture in 2003. His work has been exhibited recently at Kunsthalle Winterhur, Switzerland; Museum Het Domein, Sittard, Netherlands; and Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam. De Jong is represented by Peres Projects, Los Angeles and Berlin, and James Cohan Gallery, New York. A new monograph, "Gott Mit Uns," Astrid Honold, editor, was recently published by Black Cat Publishing, Amsterdam. The artist lives and works in Amsterdam.
Richard D. Marshall, Curator
Works in the exhibition:
FOLKERT DE JONG
GOTT MIT UNS (IN GOD WE TRUST), 2006
Styrofoam, polystyrene, polyurethane, silicone rubber, metal, and wood; twenty-four elements; dimensions variable with installation.
Lever House Art Collection, New York