Introduction by the museum
(San Diego, CA) March 6, 2012 – Idyllic children. Lush tropical tones. Have we found Eden? Take a departure from normalcy with vibrant collages and fabricated realities in Ruud van Empel’s first American solo museum exhibition, Strange Beauty. On view October 12, 2012 through February 1, 2013, Ruud van Empel: Strange Beauty features over 40 of van Empel’s digitally enhanced photographs, displaying images of exquisite beauty with simmering sinister undertones.
Van Empel constructs his works through staged photography, digital enhancement and collage. His modern technique and composition are the product of an artistic journey that has spanned graphic design, theater and television, and imbues each image with a distinctly theatrical air. Known for projects such as World, Moon and Venus, van Empel often juxtaposes perfectly posed children with a lush, Edenesque environment. Captured and enhanced with Empel’s rich digital color palette, the subject’s skin glows flawlessly while idyllic flowers and trees cover the image with succulent tropical tones, producing a surreal and paradisiacal narrative. Such immaculate beauty carries an uncomfortable and disturbing dialogue between innocence, race, appearances and perfection:
“The strange beauty that is inherently a part of van Empel’s work has innocence imbued with a hint of danger, forcing one to question assumptions and pushing beyond what is comfortable,” writes Deborah Klochko, executive director of MOPA in the recently released catalog Ruud van Empel: Photoworks 1995 – 2010. “But that is the real power of great art-to be dangerous and challenge what we believe to be true and take the viewer on a new journey of discovery.”