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PHI Artistes Collectionpermanente Vivien Gaumand David Altmejd Trickster V2

David Altmejd

Trickster - 2019

Expanded polyurethan foam, epoxy clay,
extruded polystyrene foam, cement,
steel, acrylic paint, quartz, resin, cotton
shirt, glass eyes, synthetic hair, glass
paint, coloured pencil, graphite, and glass
76.2 × 26 × 30.5 cm
Collection of Phoebe Greenberg

Photo: Vivien Gaumand

Edwin Janzen on David Altmejd

David Altmejd’s Trickster (2019) is a bust portrait of a strange, dandyish character, a kind of “manimal”: mauve of complexion, with humanlike eyes and a dog’s snout. His grey whiskers and collared shirt and jacket are gentlemanly without being stodgy; he is no aristocrat. Some rounder, perhaps, on a Mississippi riverboat in a John Hartford song.

Indeed, although a cartoonish figure at first glance, attentive visitors quickly find themselves fixed with a sidelong glance from the trickster’s strikingly realistic eyes, an unexpected connection, whereupon a sequence of emotions flashes past: suspicion, contempt, stress, perhaps pain. Situated to either side of an upside-down nose in place of a forehead, these affective eyes form the anchor-points of a collaged character, an aggregated, disordered personality—a theme common in Altmejd’s work.

The abovementioned emotions are not stable states as much as fragments—possible ways of feeling, of being—much like the trickster’s general character. The emotions absent from his gaze also demand mention: trust, comfort, warmth. Indeed, to form a personality out of fragments is no easy ride. Beyond the nose-forehead and the dog-snout, the trickster’s neck is also a product of hybridizing violence, its mauve-and-baby-blue expanse stretched like an ostrich’s and pierced with spiny crystalline shards.

In what might be taken as a comic elucidation of Marx’s theory of alienation, the trickster’s primary affectation—his top hat—is formed from a tree stump and sports a prominent hole affording access to the hat’s interior, likely the roost of some gnawing little tenant. The trickster is thus further estranged from himself: even his primary affectation, it seems, is somebody else’s home.

About the artist

David Altmejd (b. 1974, Montréal) is Canadian sculptor living and working in New-York. He obtained his MFA from Columbia University. Altmejd creates realistic and detailed sculpture in an unexpected variety of synthetic materials such as epoxy clay, resins and plexiglass as well as traditional media like plaster and bronze. His work pushes notions of the body, and it features, to extremes of transformation, decay and metaphysics, making his work vibrates on the edges of realism and abstraction, naturalism and surrealism, seduction and repulsion.


David Altmejd's Trickster is currently on view in Figure–Ground, a series bringing together several works from PHI's art collection that explore the figure and the complex and intimate correlation it establishes with its background.

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