Mendes Wood DM, Brussels – Belgium, 2020
June 13th to July 18th, 2020
The art world and the world at large are reckoning with the recent tumultuous and historic events of the past few weeks. Marginalized people and communities around the world are fighting back hard against systemic racism, societal oppression and police brutality. As many of us are questioning ourselves both collectively and individually, about our attitudes and about the society that we live in, we cannot but admire the deep courage and conviction that it takes to have your voice heard.
Ever since its inception, Mendes Wood DM has been a platform for radical, engaged artists, many of whom are from minority backgrounds or exist somewhere on the boundaries of mainstream society. As a gallery we are always striving to amplify these artists’ voices as they provoke us and inspire important reflections about the fabric of society, about the way we are. Some show humor in the face of adversity, while others make more direct statements about the environment or against oppression. Through formal and conceptual practices, they all, in their own way, go against the grain, challenging us to look at the status quo through their own lenses.
Taking as a starting point the idea of courage, both artistic and political, the show takes its name from a work by Adriano Costa titled EnormousBalls (2016), a tongue-in-cheek sculpture that asks us quite literally to reconsider the power of language, in this case the sexist implication that courage is somehow linked with masculinity. Costa’s work, which is often provocatively titled, is well-known for its humorous but profound questioning of societal norms, race, gender roles and sexuality, often flirting around the tensions and stigma in the gay community. Artists such as Costa, along with others who feature in this exhibition, are asking difficult questions and putting their beliefs on the line.
As global events have precipitated even further the often dissonant voices in media, causing so many of us to question the veracity of the narratives that we are fed, artists such as Leticia Ramos and Iulia Nistor are taking similar conceptual approaches to their work. Through meticulous and often wildly idiosyncratic photographic techniques, Ramos subverts photography’s original role as a mirror of truth and reality to ask whether the narratives she presents are real or fake, or somewhere in between. Nistor, on the other hand, makes work that visually revels in bringing the background, that which is hidden, to the surface, exposing things that we might not see at first. Nina Canell’s sculptures also talk about revealing things we don’t see or might not necessarily think about, such as her sculptures made from the same subterranean cables that power the Wi-Fi, and consequently the social media platforms, that are having such an impact on global events today, for better and for worse.