For his second gallery show at Gaudel Stampa Michael Van den Abeele composes an array of new works into an abstract ménage cohabitated by dyed denim fabric paintings, canvas prints of Ipad swipes, portrait of stray cats and an aphoristic draft stopper.
This sausage shaped stopper has white letters dyed into its denim sporting the phrase: “I love my friends for their weaknesses and you for all your holes.”, it marks the treshhold to a sphere confused about the poles penetration and perforation. Just as deceptive as the digital drawings of jeans and legs, that look not only charged with sexuality but also with solidarity. These legs could be described as “united” in working class denim that long ago sold out its promises of potency to those non-dependant on any kind of physical labour. Following this the prints of ipad drawings seem to offer a reconcilement between class and gender, a conflicted juxtaposition, blurred and harmonized by the affirmative handling of love, holes and weaknesses. The pulsating dots of two larger canvases hint towards this unification and joyfull joint-ventures, but the colors used stem from a more leaden and cold palette. The canvases could also be read as shot to pieces, with gaping holes in its former content or abstraction, the color sucked out of it to make things readable for those willing to enter. And there is the sticker of the creepy cat, an unplaceable visitor traditionally believed to be somebody else in metamorphic disguise.
Is the draft stopper keeping the inside and its emphasis on sexual equality and lustfulness warm, or is it the other way round that the ever-chilling draft is structurally located within this cool set-up of dots, lovers, cats, holes etc.? Who or what is saving on heat in this? The Sepia of the cats and jeans prints seems to overwrite their technical innovation with the generic visiuals of vintage styles and nostalgia. The slogan on the draft stopper sausage could also be read as an aged slogan, full of pathos of penetration, as dusty as the bunny with bowfly, the international mark of playboyism. My friends: an incorrigible gang of heart-broken wrongdoers, charmingly weak to fall for anything from one second to the next no matter what the costs? You: all your holes, full of holes?
The show’s bold statements are checked upon their validity by a very subtile use of color and its absence. Instead of piling colors into complex compositions, it is bleached, drained and washed from bits of blue denim or digitally layered upon drawings that could be dyed into any color there is. This color management creates an eerie tension between postulated and actual (color) temperature and it comes with a light in which every single dot/hole looks even more lonely than it already does anyways. However, it is a scientifically proven fact that when it will get really really cold outside, the cat will change back into somebody very loveable and the holes will fill themselves again with their true color, which are those of the rainbow.
Peter Wächtler, May 2019
Michael Van den Abeele (1974) lives in Brussel.
Recent presentations of his work include Beeler Gallery, Columbus Ohio; Gaudel de Stampa, Paris (solo); Etablissement d’en face, Brussels (with Harald Thys); Museum M, Leuven (solo); Mu.ZEE, Oostend; WIELS, Brussels. His exhibition Beep-Beep is currently on view at Marquise in Lisbon and his work will be presented at June in Basel.