Otegem

View of “Jan De Cock,” 2013.

View of “Jan De Cock,” 2013.

Jan De Cock

Deweer Gallery

View of “Jan De Cock,” 2013.

Located in a small village yet presenting major local and international artists, the Deweer Gallery occupies a special position in the Belgian art scene. It started out small in 1979 in the attic of owner Mark Deweer’s mansion but has grown substantially over the years, and has now been housed in his former textile factory for nearly two decades. Recently, the gallery renovated its premises and doubled its exhibition space. For Jan De Cock, such expansive environs are desirable, if not mandatory. This Belgian artist is known for his vast and elaborate geometrical sculptures in multicolored fiber and chipboard, with which he time and again occupies institutional spaces wholesale—regardless of the scale of the establishment, let alone the nature of the invitation. He seizes on every show as an opportunity to make history—in some senses literally, given the extensive art-historical references that mark his work.

This show, “Everything for You , Otegem,” curated by Luk Lambrecht, however, offered De Cock’s usual expansive ensemble brimming with historical echoes, but with a material variety and visual exuberance unexpected even for the artist, with three groups of newly made work, each marked by a radically different visual intensity and spatial disposition. In the gallery lobby, visitors were greeted by a modest sculptural arrangement consisting of the piece Nature Morte LXXVI, 2013, a plant and mirrored-silver-template letters spelling the title of the show. Two walls of the adjacent meeting room were fully covered with framed photographs from a series titled “Learning from Qatar,” 2011–13, which was not officially part of the exhibition.

The largest gallery contained a grid of sixty-eight singular sculptures composed from a concise set of recurring elements, plus seven others scattered off the grid; each is titled Nature Morte followed by a number or additional description and dated 2013. The works are geometric volumes stacked on wooden bases, some of which are propped up by bags of couscous and garnished with other food items; amorphous compositions of terra-cotta pots and bottles top the constructions. Cheap jewelry, fake plants, and other throwaway commodities serve as frivolous embellishment. Finally, a golden door chain connects the base and the top of every structure. In a cage against the gallery’s back wall, two lovebirds added an extra component to an already prodigious environment.

In stark contrast to this sculptural bulk and material density, a second large room contained four distinct sculptural ensembles, each titled BEAU-LIEU followed by a number and dated 2013. One piece, with a water fountain, served as a gate to the room. Another sculpture blocked off a triangular space in the left corner with a dense arrangement of multicolored elements made of melamine and finished with plaster, paint, tape, and other materials. A third sculpture, by contrast, intervened in the space in the right corner by occupying the facing wall surfaces with two frontal assemblages of wooden panels and steel frames. Finally, a pictorially structured assemblage filled almost the entire right wall, out of which a solitary, rocket-like sculpture jutted out toward the center of the space. Whereas the grid-like distribution of sculptures in the first room deprived visitors of an overview, the peripheral layout of the second provided a vantage point at the empty center.

With “Everything for You , Otegem,” De Cock virtuosically exchanged material mass and spatial expanse for material multitude and spatial reiteration. The relation between this formal shift and the new conceptual direction suggested by the title’s bighearted, openhanded address and the associated mode of activist sculptural practice that De Cock has outlined in his manifesto “Sculpturecommunism” in particular, however, remains puzzling. Perhaps the future iterations of the artist’s site-specific “Everything for You” exhibitions, which originated in Mexico City before coming to Otegem, will provide additional insight into De Cock’s ambitious gift project. The next beneficiaries: Milan and Beijing.

Wouter Davidts