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In a new exhibition, Jasper de Beijer draws inspiration from the color and violence of the Mexican drug conflict

by James Thorne
on 31 May 2012

With a meticulously detailed look that’s far from realistic, Dutch artist Jasper de Beijer returns with a series of new work inspired by Mexico's notoriously violent drug trade. Following months spent on location researching the history of the conflict and its representation in popular media, de Beijer set to work constructing scenes that embody the drug war. Opening tonight at the Asya Geisberg Gallery in New York, "Marabunta" is the colorful continuation of de Beijer's standout oeuvre.


At first glance, the compositions resemble photojournalistic snapshots but one will instantly notice a million oddities jumping out: a body outline composed of blooming flowers, cellophane clothing, hands sculpted from clay, a digitally rendered background. De Beijer's intent is to play with the tension between verisimilitude and pure fantasy, exhibiting both the conflict and society's removed fascination with the violence it has caused.

De Beijer captures the iconic status that both the victims and the killers have achieved. Covered in symbolic tattoos and surrounded by vibrant flowers, the portraits become a kind of shrine to the fictional characters. The discord between the festive appearance and the cold reality becomes, in the end, absurd. The artist never picks a side between the personal tragedy of the events and the misguided reaction from popular culture. Oddly enough, one gets the feeling that de Beijer's cartoonish representations may somehow be more honest than the ones found in journalistic sources, capturing equally the events and the way we interpret them.

"Marabunta" approaches Mexico in the same way his previous series "Udongo" and "The Riveted Kingdom" treated African conflict zones and the Victorian era, respectively. His painstaking method involves creating elaborate vignettes out of texture-rich materials to create brilliant set-ups that are subsequently photographed and processed digitally. Aesthetically, viewers are likely to see parallels to stop-motion animation and video games, which isn't surprising considering de Beijer's inclusive approach. Prior to this exhibition, his most recent project, "The Recollector", took the form of a 3D diorama of a museum through which users could walk and experience the virtual environment.

"Marabunta" opens with a reception tonight and will be on display through 7 July 2012 at the Asya Geisberg Gallery. For sale alongside the show is a monograph entitled "The Innocents Abroad" as well as a run of full-color, 3D-printed busts by the artist.

Asya Geisberg Gallery
537B West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

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