Finger Bang, curated by sculptor Genesis Belanger and painter GaHee Park, surveys the work of 22 living artists who depict fingers and hands to various ends and effects. The results are wide-ranging but all can agree that the hand remains an area to be mined for psychological, sexual, and political meanings. Much of the work in the exhibition is of a surrealist bent and, in keeping with that, bodily imagery pervades. Fingers and hands appear where they shouldn’t be, often severed or separate from their host body.
The history of art is littered with hands. Think of Christ Pantocrator presiding over some crumbling frescoed dome, his peace sign at half-mast. See the saints and their implements – a key, an anchor, a platter of breasts... Hands were the locus of identity. Picture Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam at the Sistine Chapel; Adam, a little limp in the wrist, receives the spark of life from God. Hands giving, hands taking. Art, its religious and didactic functions a thing of the past, is handsier than ever.
A popular reading of the dismembered and distorted bodies strewn about the great works of classical Surrealism is that this imagery played out as a reaction to the horrors of World War I. A more Freudian take on this diagnosed a latent impulse towards violence (often directed at women). Some of the work in Finger Bang does engage comparable traumas but the way it deals with the body is the product of much more contemporary impulses and behaviors: it grew up on cut-and-paste, it deploys Postmodern samplings and relishes in radical decontextualization. Very often the effect is darkly humorous, inciting knowing laughter and discomfort in equal measure.
Across all the work here, the body keeps cropping up – fragmented and unruly, a thing to be kept in check. Many of the artists are grappling with flesh in a world that is increasingly hostile towards having a body that is truly one’s own – autonomous, desirous, expressive. In this way, Finger Bang grasps our contemporary moment.
About the curators
Curators Genesis Belanger (b. 1978) and GaHee Park (b. 1985) briefly overlapped at Hunter College’s MFA program in the twenty-teens. Each remembers encountering, and admiring, the other’s work before eventually forming a great friendship born of the synergy they felt between what they were making then – and continue to make. Belanger and Park live and work in Brooklyn and Montreal, respectively.
Born in 1978 in USA
Lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, USA
Genesis Belanger stages psychologically charged mise-en-scènes composed of idiosyncratic versions of everyday objects. Working in a multitude of handcrafts — welder, ceramicist, and seamstress — Belanger conjures installations of unresolved tension on the edge of a temporal collapse. Her vocabulary is lifted from the 1950s, specifically from the dawn of American advertising, and she infuses her tableaux with a sense of lobotomized capitalist productivity, choosing liminal spaces, such hotel lobbies or office waiting rooms, as subject-matter. In Belanger's practice, the body is absent, inviting the viewer to enter as purposeful actor. In her immersive scenes, objects become surrogate for the female body: pursed lips emerge from matching stoneware lamps, fingers sprout from a bouquet, and a hot dog wiggles itself into a wedge heel. Belanger's three-dimensional work, although situated within the legacy of Claes Oldenburg and Robert Gober, is principally concerned with the manifestation of capitalist myths on a gendered psyche.
In 2021, Genesis Belanger was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Consortium in Dijon, France. In 2020, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, in Ridgefield, Connecticut dedicated a solo exhibition to her work and published a catalogue on the occasion. In 2019, Belanger created an installation in the New Museum’s Storefront Window, New York.
Born in 1985 in Seoul, South Korea
Lives and works in Montreal, Canada
Park’s paintings may be realized in the “naive” style that recalls painters like Henri Rousseau, but her subject matter is far from it. Often depicting romantic scenes where the idyll has turned sour, the sexual acts that seem to be transpiring in her paintings are at odds with their quaint settings, where art history’s favorite still life subjects—rotund fruit, cheeses, and bottles, appear on the verge of rolling off the surface of the table: so pitched is the surface, so hyper-stylized is her take on forced perspective. And yet, space doesn’t seem to recede in Park’s paintings. It’s cancelled out by the kind of flatness only a laboring love of texture and pattern can produce. Space comes to a halt as Park revels in woodgrain and brocade. Any indication of space comes courtesy of some framed element that seems to replicate the scene, albeit with some slight modification like a game of “Spot the Difference.” A window? A mirror? Another painting? Park revels in these ambiguities as well.