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02.02 -
Des Moines
Des Moines Art Centre
GROUP EXHIBITION "Meet the New You" Curator Laura Burkhalter

Bryan Crockett, Sabrina Raaf, Ruud van Empel, Magnus Wallin

The artists in MEET THE NEW YOU confront issues of how our own lives will change through new technology and reflect on the always ambiguous concepts of progress and perfection. The works in the show are not ovently political, nor do they make judgements on specific scientific advances. In fact, they have been chosen for the more abstract, peripheral, or poetic approach they make to the issues of our day. History and the present play as important a role in most of the work as any imagined future.

The figures created by Ruud van Empel are perfect. Too perfect. These children who look so sternly back at the viewer can be no more real than the artificial paradise that surrounds them, and their slick beauty is disconcerting. Symbolically, both children and the untouched forest stand as metaphors for innoucence, naiveté, and nature at its most essential, but this imagery contains a dark side as well. Van Empel counts 19th-century painter Henri Rousseau’s fantastic untouched jungles as interesting for his landscapes, but his children harken back to the stranger world of Diego Velásquez’s 1656 masterpiece Las Meninas and the sinister urban children captured by 1970s photographer Diane Arbus. Photography is usually a medium equated with documentary and realism, but Van Empel pushes it into the realm of fantasy, referencing not only painting but using a computer technique he compares to collage. In his “Untitled” (2004) and “World” (2005) series, the artist builds his Edenic landscapes and flawless children piece by piece, digitally cutting and pasting from self made photographs. This technology offers complete control over every color, surface, and detail, creating photographs in which perfection reveals itself as only possible through artificiality.