Austen Brantley (Detroit , United States) makes sculptures and installations. By applying a poetic and often metaphorical language, Brantley wants to amplify the astonishment of the spectator by creating compositions or settings that generate tranquil poetic images that leave traces and balances on the edge of recognition and alienation.
His sculptures are often classified as part of the new romantic movement because of the desire for the local in the unfolding globalized world. However, this reference is not intentional, as this kind of art is part of the collective memory. With Plato’s allegory of the cave in mind, he tries to develop forms that do not follow logical criteria, but are based only on subjective associations and formal parallels, which incite the viewer to make new personal associations.
His works are notable for their perfect finish and tactile nature. This is of great importance and bears witness to great craftsmanship. By focusing on techniques and materials, he considers making art a craft which is executed using clear formal rules and which should always refer to social reality.
His work urge us to renegotiate sculpture as being part of a reactive or – at times – autistic medium, commenting on oppressing themes in our contemporary society. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, he seduces the viewer into a world of ongoing equilibrium and the interval that articulates the stream of daily events. Moments are depicted that only exist to punctuate the human drama in order to clarify our existence and to find poetic meaning in everyday life.
His works are an investigation into representations of (seemingly) concrete ages and situations as well as depictions and ideas that can only be realized in sculpture. By choosing mainly formal solutions, he creates with daily, recognizable elements, an unprecedented situation in which the viewer is confronted with the conditioning of his own perception and has to reconsider his biased position.
His works sometimes radiate a cold and latent violence. At times, disconcerting beauty emerges. The inherent visual seductiveness, along with the conciseness of the exhibitions, further complicates the reception of their manifold layers of meaning. By referencing romanticism, grand-guignolesque black humour and symbolism, he creates work through labour-intensive processes which can be seen explicitly as a personal exorcism ritual. They are inspired by a nineteenth-century tradition of works, in which an ideal of ‘Fulfilled Absence’ was seen as the pinnacle.
His works appear as dreamlike images in which fiction and reality meet, well-known tropes merge, meanings shift, past and present fuse. Time and memory always play a key role. By emphasising aesthetics, he makes work that deals with the documentation of events and the question of how they can be presented. The work tries to express this with the help of physics and technology, but not by telling a story or creating a metaphor.
His works are based on formal associations which open a unique poetic vein. Multilayered images arise in which the fragility and instability of our seemingly certain reality is questioned.