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David Altmejd, Marcel Dzama and Amy Sherald: The Highlights

On 3rd December, we hosted our final private tour of the year, viewing the work of three artists who not only challenge we viewers to reconsider modes of representation, but also to reflect on critical contemporary issues facing our society, and how we might decide to address them in future.

View of the Artscope group visiting Marcel Dzama at David Zwirner, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Artscope's most important initiative is to provide arenas for learning, engagement, and exploration- all within an inspiring and interactive social network. Last Saturday, we brought our latest private group to see David Altmejd at White Cube, Marcel Dzama at David Zwirner, and Amy Sherald at Hauser and Wirth.

David Altmejd's unique approach to sculpture provides an other-worldly experience, one that seamlessly weaves in elements of archaeology, folklore, magic, science fiction and dystopia. These uncanny characteristics offer a comforting yet haunting effect on the viewer, one that can accurately describe Altmejd's own attitude toward the human condition. The artist crafts a vision for our natural world that is rooted in decay and demise, yet maintains a hopeful quality that promises ongoing regeneration and evolution despite such doom.

Views of the Artscope private group at David Altmejd at White Cube, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Works by David Altmejd at White Cube, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

The artist consistently refers back to the notion of "the collective unconscious", Carl Jung's theory that unites humanity based on ancestral memories which appear through universal themes in literature, visual art, music and other societal forms of creativity and communication. The hare that sits in a meditative trance on the ground floor of the gallery alludes to the global allegory that represents a "trickster", or a mischief maker...or more specifically a character that interferes with the narrative and drives the story in a certain direction. Altmejd's hare is tranquil and contemplative, but sheds his clay exterior, suggesting change, transformation and promises of new beginnings.

David Altmejd, The Vector, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

The hare motif reappears in several more sculptures exhibited on the lower ground floor of Mason's Yard, emulating classical busts of an antiquity age but are far more reminiscent of a science experiment gone wrong. The stark white gallery is clinical and ethereal at the same time, and although these deformed creatures are grotesque in appearance, their soft and yearning expressions display a soulful optimism.

David Altmejd sculptures at White Cube, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

En route to David Zwirner to view the Marcel Dzama show, the group's conversation is focused around the notion of the fantastical as a mode of representation. We discussed how it is used to portray both what is of the past and the future, as well as what has never and might never be...traversing the limitations of dream, reality, and what sits in between: memory and a projected, theoretical tomorrow. It is the perfect segway to Marcel Dzama's "Child of Midnight".

Views of Artscope private group visiting Marcel Dzama works at David Zwirner, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

A prolific artist, Dzama is a painter, printmaker and sculptor, who often addresses his themes and areas of creative interest across the mediums, offering new lenses through which we consider his ideas. The title "Child of Midnight" is a reference to the World Doomsday Clock, a metric which reports how close the earth is to total destruction and the end of natural life. Midnight is often referenced in fairy tales to mark the end of a critical part of a story, most notably in the tale of Cinderella. In a similar manner to Altmejd, Dzama deploys traditional styles of allegory and folklore in order to subtly deliver contemporary messaging around crisis but focus specifically on the dangers of climate change.

Marcel Dzama, We Can't Be Good No More, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

The works feature storybook images of celestial beings, flora and fauna, and nymph or fairy-like figures partially submerged within endless expanses of rising water. Ominous but beautiful visual allegory, their never-ending waterlines are threatening and seem to portend the continued degradation and collapse of the natural world. Additionally, there are subtle features such as a cigarette-smoking cat or eerily modern facial features, fashion and makeup on the beings that establish a dark relatability that suggest the works are cautionary tales. The anthropomorphic chess sculptures refer to notions of strategy and chance, reminding us that we play a game with Mother Nature and it is unlikely we will win.

Marcel Dzama, Midnight's Children, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

With ongoing themes of representation at work in both Altmejd and Dzama's oeuvre, the Amy Sherald show at Hauser and Wirth continues to push us to think about ways we creatively represent ourselves and our society, but now we are asked to unpack the constructs of representation and observe what injustices might lie at the core. Sherald asks us to recognise the historical roles of Black men and women within society, specifically as represented in portraiture, and acknowledge injustices of past representation before “putting more complex stories of Black life in the forefront of people’s minds,” as the artist explains. In other words, to build and embrace a world where we have the power to provide truth and integrity.

Amy Sherald canvases at Hauser and Wirth, 2022. Photo by Kate Fensterstock.

Sherald does this by humanising the Black experience where she depicts her subjects in both historically referential and in everyday settings, at once immortalising them and reinserting them into the art historical canon through a new lens. This includes the painting For love, and for country (2022), a rendering of the iconic photograph V-J Day in Times Square (1945) by Alfred Eisenstaedt showing a US Navy sailor dramatically kissing a woman in Times Square, New York City. The recreation of a familiar image urgently surfaces themes of persistent inequalities facing minorities after military service, as well as gender roles and sexual identity as further marginalisation.

Amy Sherald, For love, and for country, 2022. Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth,

In A God Blessed Land (Empire of Dirt) (2022), a Black subject reminds the viewer of the historic inequalities that range from slavery during this period through systemic racism that would prohibit true pursuit of capitalist success. Sherald often uses vehicles like tractors and motorbikes to address notions of masculinity, as well as progress, whereby the vehicle is a literal and figurative tool for growth, movement and the ability to advance forward.

Amy Sherald, A God Blessed Land (Empire of Dirt), 2022. Courtesy of Hauser and Wirth.

Sherald has commanded the viewer attention via a careful destabilising of culturally accepted practice. In fact, we have seen all three artists do this in their own way. Altmejd, Dzama and Sherald encourage us to reflect on the realities of our condition, reconsider and redesign certain associations we apply to crucial components of our society, acknowledge the dangers ahead and ideally work to create a future world that is wider than before.

For more information on private programmes, please email



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