The Party’s Over, Genesis Belanger

14 Novembre - 30 Janvier 2021
November, 14 - January 30, 2021

(32 rue de Livourne)

rodolphe janssen is pleased to announce The Party’s Over, a solo exhibition by New York based artist, Genesis Belanger. This is her first solo European show.

In Belanger’s latest body of work, the remnants of a raucous celebration lie scattered throughout the gallery’s space. Her groupings of expressive sculpted forms, muted in color and rendered in porcelain and stoneware (often atop lush furnishings), intimate a blowout of epic proportions and a desperate need to pick up the pieces. After the party, Belanger seems to say, the hangover comes.

In mathematics, an inflection point marks the moment in a curve where a change in direction occurs. The calculus on display in this exhibition seems to portend a possible shift—a sense that we’re approaching the terminal decline of a toxic patriarchy. “They’re getting in their last punches,” explains Belanger. As such, the cumulative effect of the show’s work is a sense of quiet outrage, masked by Belanger’s playful forms that are suffused in humor and irony. With this dual narrative at play, Belanger’s own domestic drama can in some manner be compared to the deceptively complex melodramatic films of Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, where a pronounced sense of style slyly conceals the profound message beneath.

Belanger’s ability to anthropomorphize common domestic items with clichéd feminine attributes, denotes an acknowledgement of the issues that women endure at the hands of society at large. An exaggerated ceramic guitar lies in repose on a soft marshmellow-ish lounge chair with bronze fingers for legs. The guitar’s metal strings are broken, frayed, frazzled, and rendered useless. Belanger suggests the female form is an instrument that men demand to be played. Here, though, this odalisque is unplayable—a futile instrument in the eyes of the powerful. Elsewhere, a clothes iron—a literal symbol of the archetypal American housewife’s liberation—has its cord cut and wires exposed.

While Belanger’s individual sculptures have isolated and subverted modern symbols of femininity, this exhibition seeks to install a broader thematic dialogue between each of these objects and their respective tableaus. Pieces from one part of the exhibition exist in dialogue with another. A lavish cake with two slices missing sits on a crowded table, one slice laying sideways on a plate nearby. Elsewhere in the show we find the other missing slice, now serving as a wedge sandal on a disembodied foot, cream seeping through the toes in tiny circular beads. The effect is reminiscent of the parlor game, ‘telephone.’ The whispered message? #Time’sUp.

Throughout the show, Belanger introduces fugazis—false symbols—of female liberation for our close inspection (bras that restrict, boxy handbags with teeth-like zippers, candy-colored tranquilizers) that reveal themselves to be deceptions and diversions. These, Belanger posits, are things that society forces on women, removed from their actual needs. Spending time with The Party’s Over and its complex web of silent dialogue reveals Belanger’s quiet confidence that while the powerful have had fun while it lasted, the last laugh clearly won’t be theirs.

James Casey


Cyanide, Sanam Khatibi

14 novembre - 30 janvier 2021
Novembre, 14 - January 30, 2021

(34 rue de Livourne)

The vanitas, writes Art Historian Norman Bryson, is built on a paradox of “world rejection and world ensnarement.” A favourite subject of “Golden Age” still lives, the vanitas became a reflection on the certainty of death, but also on the emptiness of accumulation. Like the certainty that a cut flower will wilt or food will rot, the vanitas meditates on the futility of pursuing that which does not last. Porcelain vessels and trinkets, emptied of function in a still life context, become merely ornamental—meditative and devoid of touch. They exist in a tiny void space, spotlit to indication only the vaguest sense of spatial depth.

21 vanitas still lives are exhibited in Cyanide, Sanam Khatibi’s third solo exhibition at rodolphe janssen. In these minutely rendered miniature paintings, typical trappings of the Golden Age vanitas appear and reappear: a vase with cut flowers, insects, a collection of shells, an ornately carved human skull. Like that of the Baroque painter, these are bibelots from Khatibi’s studio, fragments in a lifelong ontological pursuit of collection...

“Megalography,” writes Norman Bryson in his book of essays Looking at the Overlooked, “is the depiction of those things in the world which are great—the legends of the gods, the battles of heroes, the crises of history.” These are scenes that contain no room for the merely trivial and ornamental, the rhopographic. And yet, as one’s gaze shifts from the focused spaces of Khatibi’s still lives to her two large-scale, megalographic paintings in the exhibition, these same vanitas objects incongruously reappear. Transposed into a beautiful and murderous new place, the objects are accompanied by a familiar mortal coterie: insects, birds, reptiles, and cultivated flowers. Are they home at last, liberated from the void space of a still life? Or anxious performers in unsettling nature, like city slickers roving the countryside in straw hats?

The human figures in Khatibi’s dramatic scenes, invented or amalgamated from ancient imagination, appear undefined amidst their lush natural surroundings. They are primordial, as-yet-unfinished in their facture and their mythology. In one painting, three marauding women alike in appearance (perhaps sisters), chase a fourth woman who is stopped in her tracks by a hissing fox, her saviour or assassin. In another painting, two women, again alike in appearance (perhaps lovers) struggle in mortal combat: one screeches from all fours as her foe bares her teeth in anticipation of the final blow.

Life is frankly terrifying. Profuse facades betray cruel impulses. Khatibi’s paintings remind us that these impulses are not anomalous, but omnipresent facts of nature lurking behind every tree. And here, as decorative objects once held in safe suspension find themselves transposed into violent scenes, we are left to ask: are they macguffins, weapons, or witnesses? Removed from the ornamental realm, perhaps they begin to suggest function again: a bowl becomes a basin for blood; a vial, the keeper of poison. Or perhaps they are simply in the way as reminders of another pernicious human trait: accumulation. Either way, these precious objects are imbued with hapticality as they are put in relation to their insatiable human counterparts. Suddenly weighted in space, they create—by their very presence in these forebodingly beautiful landscapes—a role for themselves in the human dramas they observe.

Infos pratiques
32 & 35 rue de livourne
1050 Bruxelles - Belgique
02 538 08 18
Site web