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Bouke de Vries
War and Pieces

February 02 through June 02, 2019

On view in the Weil Atrium Gallery

In War and Pieces, 2012, Bouke de Vries (Dutch, born 1960) simulates a tablescape like those created for 17th-century banquets.  His central theme is the concept of war and conflict as it is familiar to 21st-century audiences.  A former conservator of art objects, de Vries assembles pieces of broken ceramic that would previously have been discarded and gives them new life.

De Vries found his inspiration for War and Pieces in the elaborate tablescape sculpture that was created by master chefs of the 17th-century using sugar, which was a rare and valued commodity at the time. Not meant to be consumed, these assemblages were prestige objects that signaled the wealth of the host.  In the eighteenth century, porcelain companies such as Meissen and Sévres began to manufacture replacements for these sugar forms.

This large-scale installation links sugar, which once defined the status of the patron, with the beginnings of European porcelain-making.  Presented as a grand war banquet similar to those held on the eve of important battles in the seventeenth century, de Vries combines porcelain shards with modern plastic elements.  The past and present clash in a battle of objects, climaxing in a nuclear mushroom cloud.

Organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

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Bouke de Vries (Dutch, born 1960), "War and Pieces" (detail), 2012, 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century porcelain, plastic, sprayed plaster, Perspex, steel, aluminum, gilded brass, and mixed media, Lent by the artist and Ferrin Contemporary, North Adams, Massachusetts