A sculpture that could belong on a theatre set. Ayn Rand’s The Fountainheadcould be playing: architecture with painted panels, quasi scruffy and positioned by chance. It is a sculpture that "stands like a Colossus", is how Auke de Vries refers to it. "You have to put it on a well-buttressed table and be able to walk around it". It is a tough sculpture, designed by Auke de Vries and executed in 3 mm thick sheet steel, welded and then painted. And indeed, walking around them enables sculptures to present their theatrical beauty, pure architecture and the poetic art with which they have been painted. In my case the back of this sculpture evokes associations with a still life by Morandi: the composition of areas, the colour palette! Because De Vries wants to emphasise that this nonetheless relates to an abstract, non-figurative sculpture, it remains nameless: “Untitled”.
“Untitled” is a recent sculpture by De Vries, although in 2012 he made a small sketch for it in soldered and polychromed tin (see page 462 in the 2012 NAI monograph by Auke de Vries). This method demonstrates that De Vries' sculptures are by no means spontaneous expressions of playful constructions, but carefully thought-out abstract compositions, preceded in most cases by precisely drawn sketches.
Auke de Vries has executed huge, monumental commissions throughout Europe, in Wiesbaden for example, where he has also exhibited in the museum. It was in this museum that Auke encountered one of the most significant collections by the German expressionist Alexej von Jawlensky and in particular where he came face-to-face with his series ‘Abstrakte Köpfe’. In the sculpture “Von J” – in the Borzo exhibition – De Vries is expressly referring to one of these "Köpfe" from Wiesbaden. In Auke de Vries' sculptures all the art disciplines seem to logically come together.
In 2017 Museum Beelden aan Zee presented a retrospective of Auke de Vries' work, as the first of a trilogy about three great, Dutch post-war, non-figurative sculptors (André Volten in 2018 and Carel Visser follows in 2019). The last exhibition by Auke de Vries at Borzo was in 2007: "Signs in the Air", for the most part fragile constructions of thin sheet metal and iron wires, sometimes suspended in space. The current exhibition likewise has hanging sculptures but they are more robust, like architecture. A single sculpture on the wall, too (“Von J”) as link to the art of painting, or even perhaps as a reference to literature and theatre, "standing like a Colossus".
Amsterdam, September 2018
Paul van Rosmalen