Critics’ Picks

Pieter Laurens Mol, Caravaggio's Total Loss, 2009, wallet, lightbulb, black steel wall console, dimensions variable.


Pieter Laurens Mol

Westeinde 1 De Nederlandsche Bank
September 4 - October 16

In his show “Interest Generator” at the Dutch national bank, Pieter Laurens Mol deals with the very apt capital sins of greed and pride. With nineteen sculptures, drawings, works in mixed media on paper, and photos, all made between 1968 and 2012, he outlines his view on high-flyers who lost it all, whether Rembrandt (depicted in a crumpled portrait), Caravaggio (symbolized by a torn-apart wallet), or Mol’s own spendthrift family members, all portrayed by photographs of their hands—each one digitally manipulated to have a large hole in its palm. Represented here by a number of his hand-colored and framed postcards of tulips, “Shares in the Cultivation of Errors”—Mol’s 1987 series of sculptures, readymades, and drawings about the seventeenth-century Dutch phenomenon of tulipomania—dates, significantly, from the decade when highly speculative hedge funds gained popularity.

Mol’s work occupies the liminal space between the mundane and the spiritual, reaching for the heavens while standing with two feet firmly on the ground. His work, linked to the physical process of alchemy and the mental state of melancholy, contains specific materials like lead, gold, silver, and sulfur, indicating meaning that can be traced back to Renaissance symbols of death, knowledge, virginity, and evil. Mol, initially schooled as a carpenter before going to art academy, identifies with artworks that use flying as a metaphor for striving for the highest only to face a hard return to earth—from Pieter Bruegel’s falling Icarus to Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void. However, because his references never come across as dull literal citations but rather retain a personal visual language, he maintains a fine balance between the cerebral, the intimate, and the playful. His drawings especially are a case in point, as they are carefully studied but nevertheless amazingly freely executed. Linking Conceptualism to a distinct material form, Mol successfully contains a poetic narrative within his work.