The University 2
David Altmejd b. 1974, Montreal
The University 2
Wood, paint, plaster, resin, mirrored glass, Plexiglas, wire, glue, plastic, cloth, synthetic hair, jewelry, glitter, minerals, paper, beads, synthetic flowers, electricity, and light bulbs
9 feet 1 inch x 17 feet 11 inches x 21 feet (271.8 x 546.1 x 640.1 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director's Council and Executive Committee Members: Ruth Baum, Edythe Broad, Elaine Terner Cooper, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, Harry David, Gail May Engelberg, Shirley Fiterman, Nicki Harris, Dakis Joannou, Rachel Lehmann, Linda Macklowe, Peter Norton, Tonino Perna, Elizabeth Richebourg Rea, Mortimer D. A. Sackler, Simonetta Seragnoli, David Teiger, Ginny Williams, and Elliot K. Wolk, and Sustaining Members: Tiqui Atencio, Linda Fischbach, Beatrice Habermann, Miryam Knutson, and Cargill and Donna MacMillan; with additional funds contributed by the Young Collectors Council, 2004
David Altmejd. Photo: Courtesy of the Artist and Andrea Rosen Gallery
From a distance, David Altmejd's The University 2 (2004) suggests a modernist architectural model or a mirrored geometric sculpture. Peering into its recessed platforms and reflected inner cavities, however, one is confronted by several ghoulish specimens: decomposing werewolf heads and body parts, frighteningly realized in plaster and fake hair. The figure of the man/beast—with its long lineage from ancient Greek myth to Victorian gothic tales to Hollywood B-movies—lies at the center of Altmejd's fantastical and cryptic iconography. While Altmejd's monsters do not participate in any kind of resolvable narrative, they nevertheless serve as potent symbols of transformation. Rather than simply rot, his werewolves undergo postmortem metamorphosis, their carcasses sprouting crystals and jewels. Along with the handmade plastic flowers and birds that are scattered throughout the piece, the overall effect of these bejeweled remains is one of beauty. Despite its dark content, Altmejd's work offers a hopeful vision: with decay comes the promise of regeneration. Altmejd conceives of his installations as living organisms pulsing with potential energy, and he has described the labyrinthine architectural structures that house his creatures as the systems that both trigger and circulate this energy.