A Postmodernist Artist Investigates Space and Self-Reference in a New Series of Minimalist Work
The pedestal plays a supporting role in museums, galleries, and palaces throughout the world. Typically, the modest stand serves as a foundation for a bust, statue, or sculpture. But Belgian artist Didier Vermeiren turns that traditional concept on its head with his elegant pedestal sculptures.
Vermeiren has been developing his signature form since the 1970s. In his pedestal sculptures, the pedestal is not only a support, it is an autonomous structure, a work of art in and of itself. Now, for his third solo exhibition at Galerie Greta Meert in Brussels, Vermeiren unveils a new collection of 17 sculptures and 12 photographs, many of which are on view for the first time.
The pedestal sculpture might be the concept that put Vermeiren on the map, but, seen within the larger context of his practice, it’s only one manifestation of the larger themes and questions he investigates. As a key member of a generation of influential Belgian artists, Vermeiren has always grappled with the significance of sculpture and sculptural objects. In the 1980s, for instance, he worked on highly detailed replicas of the plinths of famous works by the likes of Canova and Rodin. He returns to that exploration in his new exhibition: Two of his sculptures, La pierre and Étude pour la pierre #1 to #9 (both 2013), are based on Rodin’s Cariatide à la pierre.
In the ’90s, Vermeiren moved onto “cage” or “chariot” sculptures, and produced his Solides plastiques and Solides géométriques, sculptural works that proved crucial to his artistic trajectory. In all of these series, Vermeiren takes a postmodernist approach, raising questions not only about space and perception, but also about the meaning of a particular work within a historical or cultural tradition as well as within his own practice.
For Vermeiren, self-reference is crucial. “I believe that my sculptures refer to other sculptures, other sculptors,” the artist said in 1987, “but also to other sculptures in my own oeuvre.” For instance, one of his imposing sculptures seems to have pierced two of his open cubes, leaving an outline of its traversal, which he also photographed. As he has said, “I believe that no piece of sculpture stands on its own. A detached sculpture has no meaning.”
Didier Vermeiren’s solo show is on view at Galerie Greta Meert, Brussels, Sept. 9–Nov. 5, 2016.