Critics’ Picks

Peter Buggenhout, Gorgo # 24 (Gorgon #24), 2011, polyester, metal, cloth, horsehair, blood, plastic, iron armature, polyurethane foam, dimensions variable.


Peter Buggenhout

Galerie Laurent Godin | Rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare
5 rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare
May 14–June 26

The sculptures of Belgian artist Peter Buggenhout must be carefully sterilized before being exhibited. The smallest are left for several days in industrial refrigerators; the larger ones (which can be several meters wide) are treated repeatedly with chemical disinfectants. The reason is clear at first glance. The works in the series “The Blind Leading the Blind,” 2007–11, are covered in a thick layer of dust and filth; those of “Gorgo” (Gorgon), 2011, are made of materials that include blood, hair, and animal innards. They have the appearance of abandoned carcasses and chaotic accumulations, exemplifying the informe, or formless, in the sense employed by Bataille (one of Bruggenhout’s favorite points of reference).

Incompatible with any symbolic order, closed in their opaque materiality, they exist in a gray area between the natural and the artificial, growth and decomposition, the unfinished and the ruined. It is difficult to place them in an art-historical perspective; they could as easily be extreme products of European informel or ancient pieces excavated by archaeologists. The artist, moreover, maintained in a 2008 interview that he is not particularly interested “in the creations that are inscribed in a traditional history of forms”; and he added that his sculpture obeys a principle of realism, attempting to reflect reality’s entropic state of flux. The works in this show (which is titled “Contes invertébrés,” or “Invertebrate Tales”) are fitting expressions of these concerns, and escape easy comparison with other artists, with the exception of Gorgo #24, a sort of bundle hung from a rusty metal frame. Here, the lively colors that emerge from the filth seem to introduce the unexpected notion of painting. They bring to mind Rauschenberg and his most ferocious Combines, not to mention his legendary Dirt Painting of 1953, covered in mold—one of the few plausible forerunners in an art context for Buggenhout’s sculptures of filth.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.