Genesis Belanger, Ellen Berkenblit, June Leaf, Emily Mae Smith
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery presents Dark Laughter, an exhibition curated by Barry Schwabsky comprising works by four New-York-based artists, Genesis Belanger, Ellen Berkenblit, Emily Mae Smith and June Leaf.
Each artist uses imagery that might at first seem to have a reassuring familiarity, but they view it with skeptical eyes and from off-center viewpoints, endowing it with an exorbitant representational energy to assert a rueful, sometimes sardonic attitude toward the strange world in which we seem to be stranded. Their work arouses dark laughter thanks to their acerbic view of the world we share, and against which they quietly rebel.
The ceramic or concrete sculptures of Genesis Belanger are whimsical remakes of ordinary things that conjure an eerie alternative world in which the human body has been frozen in scattered parts and objects seem to come alive. Ellen Berkenblit places her recurrent snub-nosed pictorial alter ego in an off-balance, shifting world of abstract shapes, domestic and wild beasts, and all the familiar trappings of daily life—with the exception of other people; her world is all for herself, even when it’s not quite as she’d want it. Emily Mae Smith also uses a recurrent avatar in her stylistically diverse paintings: a broom, not unlike the one that rebelled against Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney’s Fantasia: “this very lowly thing that became very powerful when someone tried to control it,” as Smith says: a feminist revolt. June Leaf —part of the original Chicago “Monster Roster” along with Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, H.C. Westermann, and others—is one of the unheralded visionaries of contemporary painting and sculpture. Her work reveals the tragic aspirations and rational follies of existence.
About the curator
Barry Schwabsky is art critic for The Nation and co-editor of international reviews for Artforum. He has taught at several institutions, including School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Yale University, the School of Visual Arts and Goldsmiths College, London. Recent publications include The Perpetual Guest: Art in the Unfinished Present (Verso, 2016); Vitamin P2: New Perspectives in Painting (Phaidon, 2016); Words for Art: Criticism, History, Theory, Practice (Sternberg Press, 2013). His latest book, The Observer Effect, On Contemporary Painting (Sternberg Press), will be published this autumn.
About the artists
Genesis Belanger (b. 1978) studied at Hunter College, New York and The Art Institute of Chicago. This year she presented a solo project at the New Museum, New York. She is currently working towards a solo exhibition at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield in 2020.
Ellen Berkenblit (b. 1958) studied at The Cooper Union, New York. Recent exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The Drawing Center, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; FLAG Art Foundation, New York and McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco. Collections include Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art New York and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
June Leaf (b. 1929) studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the New Bauhaus Institute of Design, Chicago. In 2016 she had a retrospective at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Exhibitions include Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Smart Museum, Chicago; Tinguely Museum, Basel and Tel Avivi Museum. Collections include Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Tel Aviv Museum of Art.
Emily Mae Smith (b. 1979) studied at Columbia University, New York and University of Texas, Austin. In 2018 she was awarded the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Painting. Recent exhibitions include Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford; Le Consortium, Dijon; SALTS, Basel and Dio Horia, Mykonos.Courtesy of the artists and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London
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