The CryptoFuturist and The New Tribal Labyrinth
Atelier Van Lieshout

For his largest-scale exhibition in the United States, The CryptoFuturist and The New Tribal Labyrinth, AVL draws from two bodies of work that give the exhibition its name. They transform Pioneer Works into an immersive installation of sculptures and industrial machines. Central to the New Tribal Labyrinth series is Blast Furnace (2013), an imposing structure referencing Industrial Revolution-era furnaces traditionally used to produce steel. The sculpture also contains domestic elements such as a kitchen, toilet, and sleeping quarters. This environment is inhabited by an imaginary tribe of metalworkers, a “new tribe” with a visceral desire to return to the beginning of industry—the origins of Western culture, wealth, materials, and products. This tribe feeds off the heat, waste, and noise of their industrial utopia, setting the stage for the synthesis of human and machine. Some of the works in the New Tribal Labyrinth series express this synthesis through sculptural representations of sperm and reproductive organs doubling as lamps and furniture. They posit the human body as itself a kind of machine, endlessly procreating.

Other works in the exhibition are part of AVL’s CryptoFuturist series, which takes its name, in part, from the Greek kryptós—“hidden” or “secret,” as in a person covertly supporting a group, party, or belief. In this body of work, AVL revisits the Italian Futurists, who in the 20th century glorified new technologies, cities, and war finding in them a parallel to fascist tendencies we face today, such as genetics, robotics, and big data. The sculptures propose a range of solutions to fundamental problems like a machine that turns waste material into new food supplies, or a DIY nuclear reactor. Some objects such as a bronze hammer and sickle, a symbol of the Russian Revolution, nod to the rise and fall of past political movements. Pendulum (2019), a new work premiering at Pioneer Works, is a massive, mechanical clock powered by a swinging pendulum. The clock’s hands tick loudly, ominously counting down to the “end of everything” which then ushers in the “beginning of everything”—a perpetual cycle of destruction and creation characteristic of our constant search for utopia. Mechanical Press (2019), a sculpture which crushes objects daily beneath its weight, evokes these same metaphysical cycles.

While AVL envisions utopian modalities for living, these modes can just as likely lead to a world of violence and extremism. Exposing the links between the past and the present, he also lets the viewer play a game of nostalgia for bygone political theorems and movements.

Atelier Van Lieshout: The CryptoFuturist and The New Tribal Labyrinth is curated by Gabriel Florenz and Natalie Kovacs.

About the Artist

Sculptor, painter and visionary Joep Van Lieshout (b. 1963 in Ravenstein, Netherlands) was accepted to the Rotterdam Academy of the Arts at sixteen years of age, and has been working solely under the name Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL) since the studio’s founding in 1995. AVL has established a multidisciplinary practice that produces works on the borders between art, design, and architecture. Work by AVL has been exhibited at museums and galleries worldwide, and is in the collections of MoMA, New York; FNAC, Paris; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Prada Foundation, Milan; and Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich.

This program is made possible with support from the Mondriaan Fund, the public cultural funding organization focusing on visual arts and cultural heritage, and is part of the Dutch Culture USA program by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York. This exhibition is also supported, in part, with funds from New York State Council on the Arts.