Folkert de Jong is best known for his theatrical, narrative tableaux that address themes of war, greed and power. “When I watch the news or follow the world by the media,” de Jong stated in conversation with critic Steven Cox in 2013, “I can’t believe what I am hearing and seeing, it seems like a déjà vu, something is repeating itself.” A sense of tragedy and absurdity, a comically desperate psychological state, permeates his work, particularly through the sculptural material for which de Jong became known: industrial Styrofoam and Polyurethane insulation foams. Harsh and rough with heightened expressive power in material and theme, de Jong’s figures embody a grotesque horror and macabre humor reminiscent of the work of the 20th century European artists Georges Grosz and James Ensor. As critic Gregory Volk has remarked, de Jong’s sculptures “communicate a range of emotions, or really complex states of being; stalwart purpose, mania, fanaticism, humor, malevolence, sadness, delusion, introspection, and even tenderness occur simultaneously. You surmise, and the title certainly tips you off, that there is something sinister and dangerous about this goofy parade, but then again you can't dismiss these figures as mere symbols; they are too psychologically complex, too close to the bone.”
De Jong began working in bronze in 2012, and made his formal full debut in the medium for the solo exhibition Amabilis Insania: The Pleasing Delusion at the Middelheim Museum, Antwerp, in 2013-14. The addition of bronze to de Jong’s sculptural language represents an engagement with mortality, monumentality and world history that is more nuanced and less visceral than the use of modern synthetic compounds that defined the first 15 years of the artist’s practice.
Folkert de Jong was born in 1972 in Egmond aan Zee, The Netherlands, and studied at the Academy for Visual Arts and the Rijksakademie for Visual Arts in Amsterdam. He was awarded the Prix de Rome for Sculpture in 2003 and was featured in The Busan Biennale in 2016, The Best of Times, The Worst of Times: The First Kiev International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Ukraine, 2013, the Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, Scotland, 2012, The 17th Biennale of Sydney: The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age, Australia, 2010 and in Destroy Athens, Athens Biennial, Greece, 2007. Recent solo exhibitions include: 2016, And Nothing But the Truth, Brand New Gallery, Milan, Italy; 2015, Holy Land, James Cohan Gallery, New York, Court of Justice, Galerie Fons Welters, Amsterdam; 2014, Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield, UK, Musée d’Evreux, Evreux, France, Desengaño, Galeria Luis Adelantado, Valencia, Spain; 2013, Amabilis Insania: The Pleasing Delusion, Middelheim Museum, Antwerp, Belgium, Un Vie d’Illusions, Musée d’art Contemporain, Rocheouart, France, Actus Tragicus, MUDAM Museum, Luxembourg, Folkert de Jong, Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon; 2012, Vitrine de la Maison du Peuple, Clichy, France; 2011, Operation Harmony, James Cohan Gallery, New York; 2009, Mount Maslow, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Peekskill, New York, The Shooting, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, Circle of Trust: Selected Works 2001-2009, Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands, One Thousand Years of Business as Usual, James Cohan Gallery, Shanghai.