Joost van den Toorn was born in 1954 in Amsterdam and studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. He lives and works in Zaandam. In the past forty years Van den Toorn has become known for his figurative bronze sculptures whose literal quality and exaggerated features make them unique in Dutch sculptural tradition.
His works can’t be defined in terms of innovation and experimentation, but rather should be described as contrary, humoristic and nonconformist. Van den Toorn introduces contradictions in his work to undermine the intentionally literal aspect of his sculptures. This results in a layering of meaning and material. As he sums it up in an interview from 1991: “Even when things become larger than life itself they still should retain a human dimension. This goes back to alchemy: you need to combine light and heavy things in order to show both.” Van den Toorn’s work exhibits a certain affable contrariness and immediacy. He doesn’t feel the need for any high-flown unifying theme or conceptual justification, on the contrary, he uses or recycles every image that appeals to him, irrespective of its high or low origin. This results in sculptures that are not bothered much with good taste: disturbing representations that seem to embrace ugliness, but which aim to be more than just ugly.
An important and fertile source of inspiration for Van den Toorn is the punk era of the 1970s. This period has shaped him as an artist. With a healthy dose of rebelliousness and unburdened by historical dogma’s, he focuses on liberating sculpture. The comparison with the anarchic and socialcritical American artists Mike Kelley and Paul McCarthy is not as far-fetched as the sculptures might suggest. What they share is the pleasure in disrupting and undermining the myth of the artist and the cult of images. In Van den Toorn’s own words: “I take up a position somewhere between the plasterer and the artist.”
Solo exhibitions include: “Something to believe in”, Groninger Museum (2016); “Something to believe in”, Keramiekmuseum Princessenhof, Leeuwarden (2016); “Hoe een koe een haas vangt”, Galerie Nouvelles Images, the Hague (2015); “Something to believe in”, Willem Baars Projects, Amsterdam (2015); ”Joost van den Toorn en de Outsiderkunst”, Kröller Müller Museum, Otterlo (2010); Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede (2002); Galerie OZ, Paris, FR (1997) and “Joost van den Toorn 1983 – 1996”, Hannema de Stuers Fundatie, Heino / Wijhe (1996)
Group exhibitions include: Hondenleven, Leids Universitair Medisch Centrum, Leiden (2016); “The Sculpture Show”, Willem Baars Projects, Amsterdam (2015); “Paden naar het Paradijs”, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede (2014); “Verlangen naar Volmaaktheid”, Kröller Müller Museum, Otterlo (2014); Bird Watching, Vishal, Haarlem (2007); ”Habakuk & Co, a courtesy to Max Ernst”, Art Affairs, Amsterdam (1997); “La Beauté Inexacte”, Galerie OZ, Paris, France and “Schräg”, Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn / Kunsthaus, Hamburg, Germany. Next to exhibiting internationally,
Joost van den Toorn has executed numerous commissions for public artworks in the Netherlands, including: “Sailor”, LUMC, Leiden (2013);” NON PLUS ULTRA”, Randwijk, Limes kunstwerk, Provincie Gelderland (2012); “Vogelman”, Oldenelerbroek, Gemeente Zwolle (1998) and “Every Dog has its Day” (corporate gift, ed. 88), Gemeente Amsterdam (1994)