What do Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, Nokia 9000 Communicator and BlackBerry 5810 have in common? As precursors to today's Smartphones, they are no longer objects of use but have become historical objects. The passage of time and the role technology plays in it is something American artist Daniel Arsham understands all too well. With his fourth solo exhibition at Galerie Ron Mandos, Arsham amazes viewers with art he calls 'mythical contemporary archeology'. The gallery features brand new paintings, drawings and sculptures by this renowned artist.
A life-size white sculpture of an astronaut is the eye-catcher of the "Wandering" exhibition at Galerie Ron Mandos. For Quartz Eroded Astronaut Suit (2023), Daniel Arsham was inspired by the photograph Neil Armstrong took of his colleague Buzz Aldrin during the 1969 moon landing. Arsham executed this iconic image in hydrostone (a mixture of plaster and concrete), selenite and quartz. Characteristic of Arsham's sculptures is the addition of geological materials, as seen in his series of kinetic watches. For example, Ash and Pyrite Eroded Wrist Watch 4 (2023) is made of volcanic ash, selenite and pyrite, among other materials. By adding these, Arsham emphasizes the passage of time: “These materials make us think of the revolution of time. Much of my work is about the collapse or confusion of time. Erosion makes us think in two ways: in one part it looks like it’s in a state of decay, but we also associate chrystals as growth of something that happens over a very long span of time.”
He also applies this connection between past, present and future in his charcoal drawings, which demonstrate tremendous craftsmanship. Arsham signs them with dates in the year 3000, an approach that suggests we are looking at his art from the future. Because the works are arranged in a dark space that evokes associations with a museum cabinet, it enhances the effect as if we are looking at archaeological objects. In Split Bust of Classical Figure and Storm Trooper (2023), Arsham sketches a portrait that is half classical, half futuristic. The whole piece creates an alienating effect. The title contains a wink to the Storm Troopers from Star Wars. This is not entirely coincidental: in addition to his visual artistry, Arsham works on commission for various companies, such as the recent collaboration with Star Wars. Partly because of such commissions, Arsham's art is at the intersection of classicism and pop art. Adidas, Dior and Porsche are also among his clients. A reference from the latter can also be seen at Galerie Ron Mandos with his series of custom made car keys. These keys possess a post-apocalyptic appearance, resembling objects that have been buried for ages and only recently unearthed. Without keys, no car - the Peterson Auto Motive Museum in Los Angeles is currently displaying three eroded cars in Arsham's style.
That Arsham continually challenges himself artistically and has an eye for the latest digital developments is evident in his paintings from 2023. He created these using AI (Artificial Intelligence). Arsham added text and images to the computer, creating suggestions for new images. Arsham: "I repainted those images in a technique using a paint that I had specially made for me that has a very high pigment volume. This gives a lushness and velvety quality to the surface of the paintings." A clear connection can be seen with his earlier work Another light (Rising Beams) (2008) on which similar beams and trees are visible. By transferring the concept to AI, this series touches on the question: is something art if it is generated by AI but painted by the human hand? Based on Arsham's oeuvre, the answer to that may be: only time will tell.
Daniel Arsham (b. 1980, USA) lives and works in New York, where he graduated from the Cooper Union in 2003 and received the Gelman Trust Fellowship Award. Soon after, he made his breakthrough as a stage designer for legendary choreographer Merce Cunningham. In 2008, Arsham co-founded Snarkitecture with architect Alex Mustonen, a design studio that explores the boundaries between art and architecture. The studio's work includes installations, architectural environments and objects for clients as diverse as Beats by Dre, Calvin Klein, Design Miami, Kith, New Museum and Valextra. His art resides in numerous collections including Blanton Museum of Art Texas, Centre Pompidou, Fondation Louis Vuitton and The National Gallery of Victoria.
Want to hear the artist himself? Galerie Ron Mandos launched this video series featuring Daniel Arsham