The Flux and The Puddle (detail)
2014, mixed mediums, 129 by 252 by 281 inches. Photo James Ewing.

Glittery, gutsy and sometimes grotesque, "Juices," David Altmejd's exhibition of new works on view at New York's Andrea Rosen (through Mar. 8), appears as a dazzling exploration of the process of metamorphosis. The Canadian-born, New York-based artist filled the largest gallery with The Flux and the Puddle (2014), a massive sculpture consisting of a clear Plexiglas box, leaving barely enough room for visitors to circumnavigate its perimeter. The work's interior space and its external walls are inset with hundreds of elements that seem at a distance to be floating in midair. The objects range from grapes cast in resin and real coconuts to life-size resin human figures with some appendages blasted away, plus tiny models of realistic-looking ants. In one area, near the top corner of the sculpture, several pairs of hairy primate arms appear to grow from a large, sparkling geode. Their hands grasp at green grapes embedded in the Plexiglas.

Occupying a second, smaller gallery, The Eve (2014), also featuring a large, clear Plexiglas box, is a relatively spare sculpture. Hanging upside down from the top of the box, a life-size seated figure in resin is the container's only occupant. Attached to Plexiglas supports, a row of colorfully painted kiwi slices and several split coconuts appear suspended within the space. Mounted on a sculpture stand and dramatically spot-lit in a small, darkened rear gallery, one of Altmejd's trademark "heads," 2014, made of polystyrene, plaster and clay, rounds out the show.   

The artist recently invited a group of journalists to the gallery to preview the new work and offer a few insights into his approach and process.      

"I think of the big Plexiglas box as a kind of stage or a laboratory space. The work is operatic," Altmejd explained. "It's basically about the making of sculpture. Everything you see was made from inside the box. Ideas germinated from the inside. I let the work evolve and grow as much as possible. There's very little that's premeditated; it's not pre-designed.

Large holes in the Plexiglas, plus a number of shattered mirrors arranged inside the box surrounding The Flux and the Puddle, provide a variety of viewpoints into the sculpture as well as some surprising and disconcerting optical illusions. The work appears like a vast science project or a natural history museum display gone spectacularly awry.

"Holes in the Plexiglas are like periscopes, offering different perspectives on the piece," Altmejd states. "I like to create tension through the materials. I use Plexiglas because it's physical; it's also invisible, and it's practical, as well. I often use mirrors. Mirrors are nothing in and of themselves. They only reflect things. They don't exist visually until they are smashed. When you break a mirror it assumes a kind of ultra-physicality."   

Altmejd's hallucinatory images often beg for a narrative, and the sculptures' abject elements sometimes imply a dystopian worldview. But Altmejd disagrees. He thinks of his work instead as simply strange and rather dreamlike, with an aim toward poetry not provocation-to surprise rather than shock.

"I don't think of the imagery as abject. Things may appear as if rotting, but decay is the basis of growth. In the end, it's a huge ecosystem. Everything is connected."