Joost van den Toorn’s art is critical and provocative, but it also has a sense of humour. From the 11th of June the Groninger Museum and the Princessehof in Leeuwarden will pay tribute to him with a dual exhibition. Under the collective title Joost van den Toorn: Something to believe in, the Princessehof is exhibiting a wide selection from his ceramic works while the exhibition in the Groninger Museum focuses on his bronzes.
Van den Toorn likes to push the boundaries. Since 1980 he has created sculptures in which he combines images from our ‘collective memory’ with stories from philosophical, literary and historical sources. The tragedies of life play a central role. Opposites like good and bad, hero and antihero or low and high culture are recurring themes. By treating these with humour and irony, he encourages viewers to think, and also fosters a sense of melancholy.
The subjects Van den Toorn treats are often violent and topical: sex, death, violence and religion. He uses a variety of Christian and spiritual symbols, and even swastikas. We see Jesus in Leeuwarden with an overweight and exasperated Hitler in his studio. The exhibits in Groningen include an inaccessible church on a rock, and a dog rising from its own ashes. In combining the grotesque, the religious and sexual, Van den Toorn shows affinity with the painter Hieronymus Bosch.
Van den Toorn also acutely observes people and the animal kingdom. While humans sometimes make a mess of things and, either intentionally or unintentionally, inflict a great deal of suffering on each other, animals often provide friendship and comfort. Although the themes are often weighty, his style is distinctively light and accessible. This combination ensures that his work is both humorous and disturbing at the same time.
The Groninger Museum presents more than twenty of Van den Toorn’s sculptures, partly from its own collection, as well as some new work. The Princessehof in Leeuwarden has more than 65 of his ceramic works on show, ranging from wall panels to objects.
Joost van den Toorn: Something to believe in can be seen in both museums from 11 June 2016 until 8 January 2017. More information can be found at groningermuseum.nl and princessehof.nl