Magazine article Sculpture

The Hague

Magazine article Sculpture

The Hague

Article excerpt

Thom Puckey

Stroom Den Haag

Thom Puckey's remarkable Thorbecke monument and "A Matter of Time," his recent, revelatory survey, firmly called attention to the intrinsic heterogeneity of his work. The monument, situated on the edge of a green space near the House of Parliament in The Hague, confronts viewers with two loosely connected scenarios. The carved marble half depicts Johan Rudolph Thorbecke, a 19th-century politician heralded as the architect of the Dutch democratic state. He sits lost in thought and, having turned away from his desk, gazes endlessly at the seat of government. The other half features a trio of contemporary office workers cast in stainless steel. Gathered around an ordinary table, they engage in deliberation. But for the height of the single female figure, who sits on the table, the plinths, which are modestly scaled and of the same size, invoke no hierarchical ordering. The subjects, moreover, are clearly counterparts, connected by hinged doorways, though the choice of materials epitomizes differences in times and traditions.

The unanticipated juxtaposition of styles, materials, subjects, and time periods is at first disconcerting. The atypical composition comes across as lopsided or unreasonably complex, and one suspects that Puckey might have crammed too many elements into the work. The precarious placement of the furniture contributes to such an impression. Discovering that part of Thorbecke's desk and one of the table legs are lingering in the air implies a failing. Seeing Puckey's survey, however, provided context and clarified his concerns. From Minimalist constructions made in the 1980s to more recent photographs and figurative sculptures, Puckey's work elucidates a multivalent focus uniting attributes of time and space, disequilibrium, and perceptual phenomena. The compelling tension draws viewers in.

Treachery (2013), for example, depicts a female nude that, like Thorbecke, is carved out of white marble and in a potentially precarious situation. But, despite the flimsiness of the mattress on which she stands and the rigidness of her body, her eyes remain firmly fixed on something beyond the viewer. …

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