The Amsterdam-based artist duo DRIFT is known for deconstructing and remixing reality, transforming everyday objects into surprising sculptures that shift our perceived relationships with the world. DRIFT’s current exhibition at Pace Gallery in New York presents new work from their “Materialism” series, which breaks down objects into their exact individual materials and quantities to reveal the hidden recipe of ordinary things. DRIFT Materialism: Past Present, Future is on view through December 18th, and runs concurrently with their blockbuster exhibition at The Shed.
The exhibition opens with a large wall sculpture titled “1980 Beetle”, which contains over 40 solid blocks of the actual materials and quantities within a Volkswagen Beetle. This 4-minute documentary offers a peek into the process of disassembling and discovering the components of the car, wonderfully explained by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta who established DRIFT in 2006.
So perfect it’s difficult to believe, but approaching closer, one can recognize the actual materials of the black rubber, chrome, or a sealed block of motor oil. It’s all there. The materials within each work are listed in the gallery (ask the front desk) from the largest amount to the smallest, often revealing surprising discoveries. In the Volkswagen Beetle for example, the three largest materials in the car are not heavy metal, but rather cotton, foam, and horse hair (used in the seats).
On an adjacent wall, two watches hang side by side. The left is “Rolex, 2020” and the right is “Casio Watch F-91W, 2019”. Similar to the car, both objects were meticulously dissected, identified, and re-presented in blocks of exact materials. The dichotomy between the two is stunning, where the exalted luxury of a Rolex is in direct conversation with the $20 Casio digital watch. Reduced to their materials, they both feel equally complex and intriguing.
Perhaps the most recognizable (without reading the title) is the three material “Pencil, 2018” that reveals the precise quantity of wood, graphite, and yellow paint.
The masterpiece of the exhibition is the room-filling double-self-portrait titled “The artist she/her” and “The artist he/him” from 2021. The work, presented on ten pedestals, explores the molecular elements of the artists’ own bodies at various ages: a newborn, 4-year-old, 40-year-old, 80-year-old, and in death. Highly researched and represented with the basic elements that make up a human: water, keratin, protein, fats, and more, the work offers an original view of ourselves through time, concluding with a single block of ashes.
In the image above, the left row represents Ralph and the right row represents Lonneke, offering a mirror-like comparison of gender and two unique individuals. And in a brilliant move of exhibition design, the VW bug can be viewed in direct view of the self portraits, encouraging a comparison between human and machine (see below).
The exhibition concludes with a dazzling augmented reality work titled “Block Universe (2021)”, where the entire solar system is converted into DRIFT’s trademark blocks as it orbits a glowing sun. Viewed via a provided iPad, visitors can explore the physical room to discover a rectangular moon orbiting the earth or the square rings of Saturn.
The exhibition is a must-see and just 5 short blocks away from DRIFT’s exceptional exhibition “Fragile Future”. It’s here that they display additional larger works in a variety of series, including their world-famous dandelion lights (made by gluing individual seeds to LED lights by hand), and a jaw-dropping aerial performance of 4 floating concrete blocks! Treat yourself to a day of DRIFT and see both exhibitions. Entrance to Pace Gallery is always free, and The Shed requires paid timed tickets in advance.