Sculptural artist Genesis Belanger made her solo show debut at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum on Sept. 21 with her haunting exhibition “Genesis Belanger: Through the Eye of a Needle.”
While this is the Brooklyn-based artist’s first solo show it’s not her first exhibition at the Aldrich, senior curator Amy Smith-Stewart said, as Belanger’s work previously appeared in the 2018 “Objects Like Us” exhibition she curated with the artist David Adamo. Smith-Stewart noted that she had seen Belanger’s work in a previous show in 2016 and said, “I was ensnared by the way Belanger uses beauty and humor to disrupt or rearrange conditioned power dynamics and engrained stereotypes.”
For Ridgefield’s “Through the Eye of a Needle” show Belanger created all of the pieces specifically for her solo show, which Smith-Stewart said is the artist’s largest show to date.
As an artist, Belanger’s work “spans sculptures and tableaux, primarily composed out of porcelain, stoneware and upholstery,” Smith-Stewart said.
According to an Aldrich’s press release, Belanger “blends Surrealism and Pop art with a self-possessed feminism informed by a professional career inside the fashion and advertising industries. Her studio practice is chiefly centered on the creation of porcelain and stoneware sculptures and tableaux. Staging her sculptural objects on upholstered furnishings of her own invention, Belanger constructs uncanny scenes that perform narratives about our anxiety afflicted present. Her process begins with patterned forms pressed from rolled clay sheets, which she then models by hand and only fires once. She never uses glazes and chooses clays for their natural color, preferring a soft confectionary palette: creams, beiges and pastels.”
When asked about the title of the new exhibit, Smith-Stewart explained that it’s an excerpt from the New Testament proverb, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.”
Smith-Stewart explained that due to the current economic state “many have dubbed this moment as a second Gilded Age with its unprecedented wealth and staggering inequity. Belanger’s exhibition takes this ancient adage to task. She has charged the galleries with a funerary atmosphere, staging her ceramic objects on ghostly upholstered furnishings of her own invention,” she said.
“These beguiling arrangements, melted taper candles, lavish flower centerpieces, bounteous fruit bowls, classic dishes, and flamboyant libations, impersonate bereavement rituals and sympathy gifts exchanged during processes of transition and grief. Belanger’s allegorical mise-en-scène appears frozen in time and emptied of guests,” Smith-Stewart said. “Conceived prior to the outbreak of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, its tenor feels hauntingly farsighted.”
Visitors to this exhibition will see that Belanger has created sculptures of common household items that she lays out in tableau but with an anthropomorphized twist. “Belanger imparts beauty products, design accessories and food items with feminized attributes: lipsticks with wagging tongues, lamps with ladies’ pearls and tins with doey-eyed sardines,” the press release said.
When asked about her favorite pieces in the exhibition, Smith-Stewart said she loves all of the pieces.
“If I had to select two, I would choose ‘You Never Know What You’re Gonna Get,’ 2020, a ceramic object of a large open giftbox staged on a bolstered pouf. The box’s lid is endowed with a rose-pink bow. Tucked inside is a face in pieces, each padded compartment fitted with a sensory organ: a pair of eyes, an ear, a mouth, and a meaty nose. Another personal favorite is ‘Manifest Destiny,’ 2020, a monumental curtain in neutral gray tones that measures twelve feet by thirty feet and shrouds the gallery’s large center wall,” she said. “Its weighty drapery is held marginally agape by two bejeweled ceramic hands that simultaneously gesture us in and fend us off. It sets the tone of the room, which feels somewhere between a funeral parlor and a living room.”
The “Genesis Belanger: Through the Eye of a Needle” exhibition runs through May 9.
Top image: Genesis Belanger, A Fortress of Order and Generosity, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin. Photo: Pauline Shapiro