Peter Zegfeld at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (review) (2014)

R. J. Preece
artdesigncafé - art | 19 August 2014
This review was previously published in Sculpture, 33(3) (April issue), p. 79.

Peter Zegfeld at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Theatre [maker], producer for Dutch public television, and visual artist, Peter Zegveld included 12 visual and sound works in his recent solo exhibition, which surveyed three decades of his artistic practice. The selections emphasized fun. “Inventions. Surprises. Curiosities. All these things are very important,” Zegveld explains in a video interview. At the entrance to the show, I watched four pre-school children take turns sitting on a saddled plywood bench in Horse (2011). Hitting a big red button, they activated a minimalistic horse marionette, which reappeared as an enlarged shadow on the wall. The shadow horse appeared to gallop— via rotating, projected puppet legs, its movements accompanied by a mechanical, almost cartoon-like sound. It was lovely to watch such a simple construction prompt the children’s giggles, and their parents’ laughter. Inside the exhibition, Brothers (2012) employed a similar strategy, with two faces bursting into a surprising, playful song.

Other works shifted to more abstract representations, though they remained interesting, very likeable, and playful. My favorite was Wrap Demolisher (1988), which made me laugh out loud. Bubble wrap is laid out across a table-like, mechanical form. Over the course of a minute or two, the sheet moves very slowly through the machine, producing loud, unexpected pops. Laocoön (2013), which refers to the famous Hellenistic figural group, takes the form of red plastic air vents entangling three chairs. Focusing again on a moment and a sound, a blast of air enters the vents. For a couple of seconds, sea serpents almost come to life, sparking the imagination.

Bonkbed (2012) teases us with a strangely shaped, footed metal device sitting to one end of a wooden bed frame. Movement from one side of the bed to the other is implied, but instead, a simple mechanism quietly raises and releases the metal ball resting on top of the device, leaving it to roll down a slope and thump against the headboard. A similar scenario occurs in Ramp (2013), but here the stress is on more pronounced movement: a metal ball hits against a wooden trunk-like form, which then inches across the exhibition space under the force of the impact.

Peter Zegveld’s works can be associated with a certain theatricality, particularly his work with children’s theater, and it certainly straddles the art-design divide. There are clear art historical references, however, particularly to Jean Tinguely and kinetic art. When he was nine, Zegveld visited the 1961 exhibition “Bewogen Beweging” (“Moving Movement”) at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and he cites the dynamism, action, and noise of that show as significant influences.

A final sculpture was placed outdoors near the museum entrance. As I was looking for it, I heard a large boom. Box (2007) looks like some kind of cooling or heating apparatus— nothing more than a minimal, metal box, yet capable of unanticipated movement and sound. Unobtrusive, but full of surprise, this contraption made a fitting entrance and exit for an unexpected and pleasant exhibition.