DRIFT’s Latest “Materialism” Sculptures Reconfigure Reality


The Amsterdam-based artist duo DERIVATIVE is known for deconstructing and remixing reality, transforming everyday objects into surprising sculptures that alter our perceived relationships with the world. DRIFT’s current exhibition at New York’s Pace Gallery features new work from their “Materialism” series, which breaks down objects into their exact individual materials and quantities to reveal the hidden recipe for ordinary things. DRIFT Materialism: Past Present, Future is on view until December 18 and runs concurrently with their successful museum exhibit at The Shed.

Installation view of DRIFT Materialism: Past, Present, Future at the Pace Gallery

Masterpieces "Ladybug 1980" by DRIFT

1980 Beetle, 2021. Cotton, PU foam, horsehair, steel, rubber, tar, aluminum, wood powder, tectyl, glass, POM, lacquer, PVC, acid, Al / Mg alloy, paper, grease, motor oil, gear oil, Nylon, ABS, Break Fluid, Lead, PMMA Red, RVS, Copper, Bakelite, HDPE, Cork, Brass, Glass wool, Porcelain, Plexiglas, PBT, Magnet, Kit, Graphite, Showcase, Tin, Chrome, Tungsten

The exhibition opens with a large wall sculpture titled “1980 Beetle,” which contains over 40 solid blocks of the actual materials and quantities contained in a Volkswagen Beetle. This 4 minute documentary offers an overview of the process of disassembling and discovering the components of the car, wonderfully explained by Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta who created DRIFT in 2006.

Installation view of DRIFT at the Pace Gallery, NYC

Installation view of DRIFT Materialism: Past, Present, Future at the Pace Gallery

So perfect it’s hard to believe, but on closer inspection you can recognize the actual materials of black rubber, chrome, or a sealed block of engine oil. Everything is here. The materials of each work are listed in the gallery (ask at reception) from large to small, often revealing surprising discoveries. In the Volkswagen Beetle for example, the three biggest materials in the car are not heavy metal, but rather cotton, foam and horsehair (used in the seats).

Masterpieces "Rolex, 2020" by DRIFT

Rolex, 2020. stainless steel, rhodium plated brass, sapphire crystal, cerachrom, brass, lacquer, teflon, rubber, white gold, aluminum, Chromalight, teflon plated stainless steel, blue stainless steel, synthetic ruby, parachrom, yellow gold, platinum lubricant

Masterpieces "Casio F-91W Watch" by DRIFT

Casio F-91W Watch, 2019. ABS, PIMMA, POM, stainless steel, fiberglass, PMMA, glass, electrolyte, steel, manganese dioxide, silicone rubber, PVA, polypropylene, lithium, PET, epoxy, photoresist polymer, PEN + PET (DBEF), copper, tin, ceramic, lead, quartz

On an adjacent wall, two watches hang side by side. The left is “Rolex, 2020” and the right is “Casio Watch F-91W, 2019”. Similar to the car, both objects were meticulously dissected, identified and re-presented in exact material blocks. The dichotomy between the two is astonishing, where the exalted luxury of a Rolex is in direct conversation with the $ 20 Casio digital watch. Reduced to their materials, they both feel equally complex and intriguing.

Masterpieces "Rolex, 2020" by DRIFT

Rolex, 2020 (detail)

Masterpieces "Casio F-91W Watch" by DRIFT

Casio F-91W watch, 2019 (detail)

Masterpieces "Pencil" by DRIFT

Pencil, 2018. Wood, graphite and paint

Masterpieces "Pencil" by DRIFT

Pencil, 2018 (detail)

Perhaps the most recognizable (without reading the title) is the three materials “Crayon, 2018” which reveals the precise amount of wood, graphite and yellow paint.

Detail of the work "The artist she / she and The artist he / him

“The artist she / her” and “The artist he / him”, 2021. Keratin, Hydroxyapatite, Water, Protein, Hemoglobin, Fats, Carbohydrates, DNA, Electrolytes, Gas

The masterpiece of the exhibition is the space-filled double self-portrait titled “The Artist She / She” and “The Artist He / Him” from 2021. The work, presented on ten plinths, explores the molecular elements of his own body at different ages: a newborn, a 4-year-old, 40-year-old, 80-year-old and dying. Heavily researched and represented with the basic elements that make up a human being: water, keratin, proteins, fats, etc., the work offers an original vision of ourselves through time, ending with a single block of ashes .

Detail of the work "The artist she / she and The artist he / him

“The artist she / her” and “The artist he / him”, 2021. (detail)

Detail of the work "The artist she / she and The artist he / him

“The artist she / she” 2021. (detail)

Detail of the work "The artist she / she and The artist he / him

“The artist she / her” and “The artist he / him”, 2021. Keratin, Hydroxyapatite, Water, Protein, Hemoglobin, Fats, Carbohydrates, DNA, Electrolytes, Gas

In the image above, the left row represents Ralph and the right row represents Lonneke, offering a comparison similar to gender and two unique individuals. And in a brilliant exhibition design move, the VW bug can be seen in direct view of self-portraits, encouraging a human-machine comparison (see below).

Installation view of DRIFT at the Pace Gallery, NYC

Installation view of DRIFT Materialism: Past, Present, Future at the Pace Gallery

The exhibition concludes with a dazzling augmented reality artwork titled “Block Universe (2021),” where the entire solar system is converted into DRIFT branded blocks as it orbits a brilliant sun. Viewed via a provided iPad, visitors can explore the physical room to discover a rectangular moon orbiting the earth or the square rings of Saturn.

Block Universe installation by DRIFT

Universe Block, 2021

Block Universe artwork by DRIFT

Block Universe, 2021 (detail_

The exhibit is a must see and only 5 blocks from the DRIFT Museum’s exceptional “Fragile Future” exhibit. It’s here that they showcase other larger works in a variety of series, including their world-famous Dandelion Lights (made by sticking individual seeds onto LED lights by hand) and a stunning aerial performance by 5 floating concrete blocks! Treat yourself to a day of DRIFT and discover the two exhibitions. Admission to the Pace Gallery is always free and The Shed requires paid tickets in advance.

artist portrait DRIFT

Drift founders, artists Lonneke Gordijn and Ralph Nauta, Photography by Teska Overbeeke

WHAT: DRIFT: Materialism: Past, Present, Future
OR: Pace Gallery, 540 West 25th St, New York, NY
WHEN: November 5 – December 18, 2021

Also on view: DRIFT “Fragile Future” at The Shed through December 19 (540 W 30th Street) requires timed tickets here. Highly recommended on days with “+ Drifters Experience in The McCourt”.

All photographs © Drift, courtesy of Pace Gallery.

David Behringer visits over 200 galleries each month to discover and share New York’s most exciting contemporary art today. Subscribe to his exclusive weekly newsletter at www.thetwopercent.com and discover his private gallery tours. And don’t forget to check out his YouTube.

About Elizabeth Smith

Check Also

Progress of exterior renovations to 111 Wall Street in Manhattan’s Financial District

Work is progressing on the $100 million renovation of 111 Wall Street, a 25-story commercial …