“In “Brigadier” (C-Print, 39.37 by 52.76 inches, 2019), de Beijer has photographed a headless figure lying on a bed that appears to be outside. The shutters on the window behind him are geometrically divided into four triangles, echoing the emblem on the containers in “Refinery.” The brigadier’s uniform and skin have been brought into clarity by the highly detailed, printed surface that de Beijer has applied to his carefully built-up volumetric form.
The fact that we see his calves, a hand, and a forearm, but that he is headless, is strange and unsettling, especially as the artist has placed a hat above the empty collar, supported by what looks like a crooked stick rising up from the back of the empty uniform. In fact, there are no faces in the photographs, only empty uniforms. “Brigadier” is downright weird, oddly funny, somewhat creepy, and unnerving.
Why can’t we see the Brigadier’s face? Is he a surrogate for one part of Dutch history, at once visible and gone? What is the present’s relationship to the past? Aren’t different nations at a crucial juncture as they try to shape and reshape their bonds with the past? These are issues that de Beijer makes visible without becoming didactic. That he moves so nimbly from one subject to another — from a refinery to a brigadier lying in bed to a night sky lit up by glowing paths culminating in explosions that reveal the land plantations and slave huts below — is what convinced me that he is a major artist whose challenging work should be better known in America.”