David Altmejd Contemplates the Trickster Archetype at White Cube

David Altmejd’s latest exhibition is centered around the Jungian archetype of the trickster.

On view at White Cube in London, the Canadian sculptor invites visitors to a brooding hare that sits ominously in a yogic pose with ears outstretched to the confines of the space. The show’s inspiration comes from Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, where the Swiss psychiatrist examined the universal themes present in virtually every creation story across art, literature and religion.

Amongst the various archetypes, the trickster has shown to resurface throughout history — from Loki, the gender-switching trickster native in Norse mythology; Eshu, the contradictory Yoruban character who navigates heaven and hell. Similarly, to the aboriginal peoples of Canada, known as the First Nations, the trickster manifests as a rabbit, raven or coyote — bringing about mischief wherever they go.

In his 1998 book, Trickster Makes This World, author Lewis Hyde compared the trickster to a modern-day artist — “whose main concern is getting fed and it ends with the same being grown mentally swift, adept at creating and unmasking deceit, proficient at hiding his tracks and at seeing through the devices used by others to hide theirs.”

As with much of his past work, Altmejd attempts to free his own hand from the process of creation by showcasing a series of mythic busts, each of which is imbued with quartz crystals, that similar to the yogic figure, transforms the artwork into its own being detached from the mind of the artist. Housed on the lower level of the gallery, the plinths infer an archaeological discovery or perhaps extraterrestrial specimens spawned out of experimentation. The characters are in a way a reflection of Altmejd’s own personality, providing visitors a glimpse into the exhibition as a multi-faceted psychic self-portrait.

The eponymously titled show is on view in London until January 21.

Also on view, David Zwirner presents Frank Moore: Five Paintings.

White Cube
5-26 Masons Yard
St. James’s, London
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