27th October 2012 to 17th February 2013All of Didier Vermeiren’s (Brussels, b. 1951) work has developed out of an ongoing exchange between past and present, between an interpretation of the history of sculpture and a contemporary exploration of its essence.
In the late seventies, the artist turned his attention to the fundamental question of the plinth, or base, creating the “plinth sculptures” that made him famous. Traditionally, the plinth was not considered to be part of the sculpture, but served to transport the sculpted figure from “real” space into artistic or monumental space. The function of the plinth as pedestal then gradually disappeared in the course of the twentieth century: whereas certain artists, like Brancusi, turned the plinth into an integral part of their work by incorporating it into the sculpture, others no longer wanted the sculpted object to be separated from the ground by this presentational element and chose to place the sculpture directly on the floor, on the same level as the spectator. Modernism, in other words, rendered the plinth useless. Taking this development seriously, but wanting to think it through more rigorously, Vermeiren reconsidered the purpose of the plinth and turned it into an autonomous volume in space: if the plinth is a base or foundation, it can be displayed for its own sake and on its own merits, taking on the fate of a work of art. All that is left is the pure presence on the ground and its many sculptural possibilities. This gave rise to an ongoing dialogue with space, and situating works in space and reconfiguring space in relation to these works thus became the purpose of every exhibition. For Vermeiren, space is not empty, but plastic, which is why he thinks of his works as penetrating and sculpting it. Sculpture’s incorporation of space in this way – all of space, including the firmament – constitutes one of the characteristic features of twentieth-century sculpture. Carl Andre, in dialogue with Brancusi’s Endless Column, once stated that his sculptures, as horizontal, flat and low-lying as they are, nevertheless support “a column of air” on their entire surface area. This column can be pictured as extending “endlessly” above the works, or as bounded by the vault of heaven or that of a building.
Simon Duran (translated from the French by Dr. Millay Hyatt)