Life-size sculpture groups made of Styrofoam and polyurethane foam form the core of the 25-year-old oeuvre of the now 50-year-old Folkert de Jong. It is a material normally used in construction, architecture and set design. Using these means, De Jong creates complex tableaux vivants of grotesque worlds, which take as their subject power, violence, disaster and the uncomfortable sides of the human condition. Intrigued by the caverns of the soul, the artist drags the viewer into his personal world, where the bizarre and the vulnerable converge.
'In Kunsthal KAdE, black figures smile at you - they seem to be covered in oil. Their outfits refer to the trade of the Golden Age. They try to seduce you with beaded necklaces, reminiscent of bribing peoples in colonies. But the beads are just as much stuff with which we are bribed today: through advertising and marketing techniques, brands promise us a good life if we just keep buying and consuming.' (Nederlands Dagblad)
In the cabinets and back rooms of Kunsthal KAdE, a wide selection from the entire oeuvre of Folkert de Jong was shown in an "open display. Among these were several works that have never before been shown in the Netherlands. A large scaffolding structure was built in the main hall of the art hall, on which the visitor steps from the top and then descends to the floor via various platforms. On these platforms - and between the scaffolding structure - came works made especially for the exhibition. It was the first time that the main hall of Kunsthal KAdE was used in this way.
Folkert de Jong often refers to (art) history in his work and combines it with contemporary social and political issues. Through the use of Styrofoam - which is alternately soft blue and soft pink - and PU foam - pale yellow - De Jong's sculptures have a very specific color character. Because the figures are usually life-size, not infrequently with the artist himself as model, the viewer can relate to them as a human being and be sucked into the scenes unfolding before his or her eye.
'War, disease and other fierce episodes from history - despite the bright colors, it is usually not a cheerful scene in the images of chemical foam that Folkert de Jong (51) creates. 'But making art is a way of thinking: life is quite beautiful, precisely by not avoiding those dark things.' ( Het Parool)
The Ministry of Fear/Foam exhibition was accompanied by a book that summarizes De Jong's 25-year body of work by looking at the process of creation and context of the sculptures, with much material from the private archive. As an artist's book, it provides an insight into the artist's "head. The last oeuvre book dates from 13 years ago and appeared to accompany the retrospective exhibition 'Circle of Trust' at the Groninger Museum.
'Fascinating, too, is Operation Harmony (2008): a huge soft-pink grid structure that incorporates 'petroleum-black' bodies and body parts of historical figures such as Spinoza, William of Orange and Balthazar Gerards. We are pulled apart by history, De Jong seems to want to say, and our room for movement is limited.' ●●●● (NRC)
Folkert de Jong's exhibition was on view from Jan. 28 to May 7, 2023.