Asalto de la diligencia, 2008. Styroforam, polyurethane foam, and colored acrylic sheets, 300 x 120 x 300 cm.

Confronting the Grotesque: A Conversation with Folkert de Jong

Folkert de Jong aims for the solar plexus. His life-sized figures, grouped in open tableau-like arrangements, are startling. Made from Styrofoam and polyurethane foam, they strike archaizing poses fraught with allusions to earlier art, appearing brittle, yet on the verge of collapse, oozing in places and liquefying in others. Through an unorthodox choice of materials gleaned from the worlds of chemistry and industry, de Jong’s statues manage to bypass the colors, textures, hardness, and weight we generally associate with sculpture. The artificial hues inherent in his materials are accentuated by slapdash applications of contrasting paint. Seemingly on the verge of decomposition, these grotesquely expressive actors resemble the dead miraculously come alive. Beauty is out. War is among de Jong’s chief subjects, and with it, big business, greed, and power in its various guises. The Dutch artist has chosen his theme wisely, for the subject of war never goes out of fashion, and few contemporary artists dare tackle it in such an innovative and idiosyncratic way. Folkert de Jong takes no prisoners. His work has been featured in numerous group shows and more than 10 solo exhibitions.