David Altmejd's seductive yet repulsive sculptures combine magic, science fiction and gothic romanticism

David Altmejd. Courtesy of White Cube. Photograph by Vincent Dillo

A solo exhibition of New York-based artist David Altmejd, the first in Asia, will open at White Cube Hong Kong in March 2019. His work combines science, magic, science fiction and gothic romanticism. "A perfect object for me," he says, "is something that is extremely seductive and extremely repulsive at the same time."

Some of Altmejd’s best-known works are his vast, labyrinthine vitrines built of Plexiglas, often with mirrored elements. They play on the aesthetics of design and display as well as minimalism but are not simply a means to contain or protect the elements within. Rather, the entire structure is an organism or a machine, making visible the processes of growth and decay that take place inside it.

In his recent life-sized sculpted heads, Altmejd combines skilful realism with crude expressionism, using gobbets of raw matter or hanks of fur. One head might sprout another, inverted, sharing a pair of eyes. Some faces are scooped out entirely, with gaping wounds revealing interiors of dazzling crystal or hollowed-out fruit, collapsing the categories of animal, vegetable and mineral.

His monochrome relief panels are austere in comparison, focusing the viewer’s attention on plaster-like material and the actions wrought on it – where it has fallen in wet splats, or hands have gouged and clawed its chalky surface. Hands in cast form also appear and multiply, creating the illusion that the works create themselves. Monumental series’ of figures, such as the ‘Bodybuilders’ and the ‘Watchers’, are similarly engaged in their own making or unmaking, sprouting hands that clutch and mould the very substance of their bodies.

Coinciding with Art Basel Hong Kong (29 – 31 March 2019), David Altmejd’s first White Cube exhibition will include new sculptures alongside other examples of his work. The show runs from 26 March until 18 May 2019. Discover more at www.davidaltmejd.com.

Untitled 2011 © David Altmejd

Untitled 2011 © David Altmejd

Bust with Glass Ears © David Altmejd

Bust with Glass Ears © David Altmejd

The Measure of Things  2017 © David Altmejd

The Measure of Things 2017 © David Altmejd

Matter  2015 © David Altmejd

Matter 2015 © David Altmejd

Spacing Out  2017 © David Altmejd

Spacing Out 2017 © David Altmejd

Man with Black Sweater © David Altmejd

Man with Black Sweater © David Altmejd

Big Night  2017 © David Altmejd

Big Night 2017 © David Altmejd

Untitled  2014 © David Altmejd

Untitled 2014 © David Altmejd

Art Student  2018 © David Altmejd

Art Student 2018 © David Altmejd