A harlequin, a girl in a Dutch costume, philosopher Diogenes with a bucket on his head, a prince in a coffin and an architect who proudly holds reproductions of his own head. These are the main characters in Dutch artist Folkert de Jong’s (1972) installation ‘The Man From Delft’. Assembled in a tableau vivant, the life-sized sculptures are produced out of the materials characteristic for his oeuvre: Styrofoam, polyurethane foam and paint. The aesthetics of these moulded figures reveal De Jong’s production process; paint is applied roughly and body parts are attached by wire-netting and tape. Despite this punk-like appearance, there is a dark undertone in their carnavalesque look, the sculptures show a fascinating variety of textures and details. While most of the characters express an exultant mood, the slightly larger harlequin ‘The Thinker’ sits contemplatively on the floor. His face shows a life-like expression of melancholia and detailed fragile nettles grow out of his shoulders.
Breaking with any form of chronology, De Jong always focuses on iconic characters, either in history, politics, art or advertisement. This time there is a special concentration on icons from his country of origin, that in this exhibition all deal with forms of commodification. The Dutch prince Willem of Orange (1533-1586), still a tool of propaganda in contemporary politics, is presented in his royal costume in a coffin in ‘The Man From Delft’. ‘The Queen of Coal’, wearing a hat and boots, is a reference to the Dutch royals after whom several coal mines were named and the blonde girl wearing traditional Dutch clothes and clogs represents a typical marketing image that can be found on many export products. De Jong by no means criticizes these marketing aspects. Instead he consciously makes use of their recognisability and pop value. The results are highly entertaining, although they lack a convincing conceptual layer. The selection of drawings, made with felt-tip pens, presented at the gallery entrance proves to be an intimate addition to the grotesque ensemble.
by Tessa Verheul