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10 Picks from Art Brussels 2017

Hans Op de Beeck, Fatimah, 2016. Coated polyester, pigmented plaster, and wood, 164 x 73 x 135 cm. 

Through a wide range of media, Hans Op de Beeck's artistic output focuses on our relationships with time, space, and each other. In Fatimah, he presents a figure who looks like she's taken from contemporary, daily life, but he removes all identifiers. The can of soda, box of cigarettes, and cell phone are devoid of brand names. The figure might have a name, but her nude upper half, basic sweatpants, and blank sketchbook give no further indications of her personal identity. Instead of being bombarded by her surroundings, as we often are, Fatimah appears peaceful and calm, consumed by and lost within her own world.


Installation view of Eric Yahnker's solo exhibition "Alternative Fiction" at The Hole's Art Brussels 2017 booth. Courtesy of the artist and The Hole.

The oil pastels presented by Eric Yahnker in his mini solo show "Alternative Fiction" are at once disturbing, comical, and overwhelming enjoyable. The artist transforms iconic images, works of literature, record covers, and more into "alternative facts" (Salinger's Catcher in the Rye becomes Grab Her by the Pussy; Marvin Gaye's LP what's going on? becomes fuck this shit). As Yahnker said in a statement about the exhibit, "I wanted to create a mini-universe of images that expressed the pervasive post-Trump-election malaise of the current American progressive."



Tschabalala Self, Chandelier 1, Chandelier 2, and Chandelier 3, 2017. Gouache, color pencil, xerox, paper, plastic, oil, acrylic, and flashe on canvas, 50" x 68". Courtesy of the artist and Thierry Goldberg.

Tschabalala Self is arguably one of the most exciting emerging artists today. Though she finished her MFA at Yale less than two years ago, she has already garnered comparisons to the likes of Kerry James Marshall—and her work deserves it. Her collages (often composed of fabric, stitching, and acrylics) explore the depiction of the black female body in contemporary culture, specifically focusing on the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality. The chandelier shown in each of these three works is based off of one hanging in her cousin's apartment in Detroit, where the paintings were made. More than just a source of light, Self says that she also thinks of the chandelier as "an object that could communicate the potential for transcendence."




Masimba Hwati, Rinamanyanga Hariputirwe VI (That Which Has Horns Cannot Be Wrapped), 2016. Mixed media, 168 x 90 x 24 cm. Courtesy of SMAC Gallery. © Masimba Hwati.

By bringing together "traditionally" African objects with recognizable symbols of popular culture, Zimbabwean artist Masimba Hwati investigates ongoing exchanges between African and Western cultures. He uses the subject of sports as a cultural signifier, as something that is immediately recognizable yet also able to transform the mass audience into one cohesive, passive unit. In this specific piece, the punching bag represents the reception of violence, while the protruding hardware acts as a guard and aims to subvert notions of "Africa."

Honoré ∂'O, Untitled (FallDown app X), 2017. Mixed media, 138 x 115 x 44 cm. Courtesy Kristof De Clercq gallery.

Honré ∂'O was a co-winner of Art Brussels's solo prize in 2015. This year, his work remains a standout at Kristof De Clerq's booth. Well-known for his use of styrofoam and his obsession with play, viewers can interact with almost all of his pieces. His recent FallDown app series began with images he took of dead birds on the side of the highway, which he then manipulated in Photoshop before adding his signature touch of playfulness and styrofoam. In this piece, styrofoam is cut in the shape of a child's foot and tethered to an hour glass, placed directly on top of the dead animal's head. It's a clear allusion to mortality and our ticking biological clocks, our yearning for childhood innocence despite the constant movement of time. Viewers can also ring an attached bell, and by doing so, it as if they are signifying the official end of life.



Enrique Ramírez, Doce botes para un continente, europa, 2016. Four hand-embroidered fabrics, metallic clamps, wood frames, and glass, 52.5 × 65 × 5 cm.

Immediately upon viewing this work, we assumed the artist was European and that the four flags represented the demise of the European Union. We soon learned that Ramírez, however, is Chilean, and the work could also easily be read from the bottom up, representing the growth and strength of the EU. In his practice, Ramírez often uses forms that stem from autobiographical information (for example, his father made boat sails) to create work that engages with Chilean politics and oceanic matters. In this piece, he replaces the stars of the EU flag with small, yellow boats, which, if viewed without political associations, could simply be interpreted as the rising and setting of the sun.

Pascal Convert, Library, 2016. "Lost book" crystallization and glass, 265 x 400 x 22 cm.

French artist Pascal Convert is fascinated by language. Many of his sculptures, installations, videos, and books confront ideas of memory and forgetting in relation to history. This library, which contains approximately 260 books, consists of lost literature from the 19th century. Through a complex process of crystallization, Convert takes books and covers them in glass (he knows what book each individual piece once was, but will not disclose this information). The process destroys the physical book, and holes often appear in the glass where ashes once were. Sometimes pieces of metal remain, and in rare cases, oxidization occurs, tinting the glass with aquamarine blues and greens.





Barbora Kleinhamplová, Problems Solved, 2016. Six unique silicone casts.
Kleinhamplová, Head Over Heels2016. Smashed energy-drink cans and audio, 08:29 min.
Kleinhamplová, The Body Language, 2017. Digital print, dimensions variable.

The Czech artist Barbora Kleinhamplová often employs performance, new media, and sculpture to question the working conditions of our current time. How can millennials continue as entrepreneurs and forward-thinking cultural leaders without overworking themselves to the point of destruction? In three works presented in the installation at Lucie Drdova Gallery's booth, Kleinhamplová depicts a mural-sized print of a bloodshot eye dotted with crushed energy drink cans. In front of the wall, five exhausted arms droop over metal plinths. It's an overwhelmingly depressing and accurate representation of the current generation of young professionals.


Thom Puckey, Figure on Bed with Camera and Weapons, 2013. Statuario marble, 206 x 104 x 77 cm. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij.

Thom Puckey worked with abstraction before moving to photography and more recently, producing hand-cut marble statues. This sculpture on view at Annie Gentils Gallery's booth reflects Puckey's overall practice, which is always politically engaged and often deals with the female figure. Here viewers see a young, naked girl, laying the wrong way in bed, taking a selfie. Weapons of mass destruction rest next to her on a pillow. The piece confronts notions of fragility and vulnerability, exterior violence entering the private space, and superficial modern obsessions that continue in the face of danger. Colloquially speaking, even the idea of "shooting" a photo is addressed. 



Installation view of Laure Provost's solo exhibition at Galerie Nathalie Obadia's Art Brussels 2017 booth. Courtesy of Laure Prouvost & Galerie Nathalie Obadia Paris/Bruxelles. Photo: WE DOCUMENT ART.

Exhibiting more than 10 works by Laure Prouvost, Galerie Nathalie Obadia invites viewers to enter the strange universe of French conceptual artist. In 2013, Prouvost won the Turner Prize, for which she made the video installation Wantee. Each item in the booth references Wantee, which told the fictional story of her grandfather's relationship with the artist Kurt Schwitters. The story included plenty of tea as well as a tall tale that says her granddad disappeared after building a tunnel between the U.K. and Africa.