A voracious reader and collector of knowledge, Van Caeckenbergh coalesces bits of information—from scientific diagrams to fairytales—into unified ideas that are brought to life in his artwork. He is constantly organizing and classifying his research to make sense of it, and often mixing this information with his personal ideas and imagination to create a new narrative. Van Caeckenbergh’s conceptual work represents the visual articulation of complex webs of interconnected information that he is constantly collecting. The artist will be present for an opening reception at the gallery on Tuesday, June 23 from 6-8PM.
The sculptural installation at the center of Van Caeckenbergh’s exhibition at Lehmann Maupin,THE PICTURESQUE HISTORY OF EMPTINESS, Les Oubliettes – The Oblivions – De Vergeetputten, attempts to give form to the vast emptiness of the world—that which we cannot see. Approximately 200 hand-blown glass bell jars of various shapes and sizes will be placed on an industrial shelving unit, with the top and bottom shelves mirrored, giving the illusion of infinity. Drawing parallels to the emptiness of the atom as the building block of all matter, Van Caeckenbergh wants us to consider that emptiness is all around us. The jars were originally used to protect statues of saints from dust. However as Flanders, where Van Caeckenbergh lives, transitioned from a predominantly Catholic region to a more secular one, the saints were discarded and the jars became useless. Van Caeckenbergh purchased the jars from an elderly Belgian man, and they are displayed as Van Caeckenbergh found them at the man’s house—nestled inside one another, covered with dust, fingerprints, and the residue of labels naming the saints that were once protected inside of them.
Surrounding the installation on the gallery walls will be a series of 31 graphite drawings of trees.Drawings of Old Trees during the wintry days 2007-2014 are not renderings of actual trees, but are inspired by the trees in Belgium, particularly those in the artist’s own garden. The drawings evolved organically from Van Caeckenbergh's imagination after having observed the trees for so long that he was able to absorb their form and essence. Caeckenbergh often revisited and reworked the drawings over a number of years, laying new pieces of paper over some sections so he can expand on them, never erasing his marks. The drawings have some playful references—sometimes elements of the tree are shaped anthropomorphically, on occasion small windows or doors are worked into roots. Van Caeckenbergh views these tree drawings as a metaphor for his overall practice, the branching off of ideas and concepts from one central source.
Together THE PICTURESQUE HISTORY OF EMPTINESS, Les Oubliettes – The Oblivions – De Vergeetputten and Drawings of Old Trees during the wintry days 2007-2014 serve as foils for one another. The trees are a way to represent the idea that everything in the world is connected, while conversely, the bell jar installation represents the vast emptiness of the world, both giving form and shape to something that is truly impossible