Jos Van den Bergh

  • Hiwa K

    One of the stronger works on view in last year’s Documenta 14 was When We Were Exhaling Images, 2017, Hiwa K’s installation consisting of a stack of large clay drainage pipes. In one pipe—each had a diameter of roughly three feet—viewers found a used washing table; in others, an unmade bed, some furniture, and daily utensils. The work evoked an absurd housing project for refugees. The artist, who was born in Iraqi Kurdistan, fled his native country during the Gulf War of 1990–91. Traveling by foot through Iran, Turkey, Greece, and Italy, he ended up in what became his new home country,

  • Kendell Geers

    One of Kendell Geers’s most iconic works is his Self-Portrait, 1995: half of a broken Heineken beer bottle, ready to be used as a weapon, bearing a label reading IMPORTED FROM HOLLAND. As the work of a white male South African descendant of Dutch colonizers, this simple object encapsulates two of the major and returning themes of Geers’s art: violence and identity. In this recent pair of exhibitions in Brussels, both titled “AfroPunk,” he showed his own work alongside traditional African art to create compelling variations on his recurring concerns.

    The show at Rodolphe Janssen included a huge

  • Patrick Van Caeckenbergh

    In his exhibition “Les Loques de Chagrin” (The Rags of Grief), Patrick Van Caeckenbergh seemed to create his own universe by staging an eclectic group of works and installations that at first appeared to eschew clear interconnections. In an installation near the entrance, one saw three snakeskins filled with eggs, hanging vertically from an iron broom handle. It seemed that something had dripped out of these dead bodies into two chamber pots placed under the ends of the snakes’ tails. This eerie assemblage was accompanied by works including a sort of small sideboard, a display cabinet, an

  • Carsten Höller

    The Belgian-German artist Carsten Höller is best known for large-scale installations that invite the viewer to participate in or activate them. But his recent exhibition “Videoretrospective with Two Lightmachines” showed another side of his work. The complex and layered show started with Light Wall IV, 2007. LED lamps went rapidly on and off, accompanied by hard stereophonic sounds of clicking, thus evoking a disorienting stroboscopic effect. According to the artist, this disconcerting welcome was intended to put the visitor in a dreamy mood that would allow her to comprehend reality in a

  • Jan Van Imschoot

    Jan Van Imschoot is an artist’s artist, admired and respected by his colleagues but, regrettably, little known to a broader audience. The fact that he has opted for a kind of voluntary exile in the countryside of northern France doesn’t help either. But he is one of the best Flemish painters of his generation. For his latest exhibition, “Le jugement de Pâris à Bruxelles” (The Judgment of Paris in Brussels), he took a cue from Greek mythology. Paris was the Trojan shepherd prince who had to judge which of the Greek goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite deserved the golden apple with the inscription

  • Jef Cornelis

    The importance of what Jef Cornelis produced during his career at the BRT—the Belgian Radio and Television company, later renamed the Flemish Radio and Television company—can hardly be overestimated. Between 1964 and 1998, Cornelis directed more than two hundred documentaries, film essays, and live broadcasts on modern art, architecture, and other topics in the cultural domain. “Inside the White Tube. A Retrospective View on the Television Work of Jef Cornelis” gave an overwhelming image of four decades of television historiography. Although today it is tempting to look at this exhibition

  • “Atopolis”

    One of the two European cultural capitals of 2015, Mons was the perfect place for “Atopolis,” an awesome exhibition of twenty-three artists, organized by Wiels Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels. The show’s theme was the possibility of an ideal city in a globalized yet fragmented world. Mons was one of the first European cities to play a major role in industrialization; huge territories in and around the city were devoted to mining—and to housing the many foreign guest workers who were brought there. Around the coal mines, various nationalities lived together in specially designed communities,

  • Lili Reynaud-Dewar

    When this year’s Venice Biennale director, Okwui Enwezor, asked Lili Reynaud-Dewar to propose a project, she produced My Epidemic (small modest bad blood opera), 2015. The theme of this “opera” is a reflection on AIDS, starting with a famous case from the beginning of the 2000s, when the French writer Guillaume Dustan was attacked by Didier Lestrade, a founding member of ACT UP Paris, for claiming that it was his personal and legal right to have unsafe sex and write about it.

    Reynaud-Dewar, who teaches at HEAD (Haute École d’Art et de Design) in Geneva, often works with different partners as part

  • Jonathan Meese

    Jonathan Meese is nothing if not hyper-energetic. For his most recent exhibition, the German artist covered nearly all the available wall space with no fewer than twenty paintings, thirty-three drawings, and a thirteen-page manifesto on what art is, what it isn’t, and what it should be. What’s more, almost everything in “Spitzenmeesige Women (Schniddeldiddelson)”—the nonsense title of this exhibition, like those of many of the individual works, is untranslatable despite incorporating recognizable bits of German and English—was produced this year. This overwhelming assemblage resembled,

  • Bruce High Quality Foundation

    In 2003, a group of Cooper Union alumni formed an organization to maintain and promote the artistic legacy of “Bruce High Quality,” a fictional artist who died in the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the Foundation has brought the gospel of Bruce to the Whitney Biennial as well as to shows at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Brooklyn Museum, to name a few. For their exhibition in Brussels, the collective produced an impressive installation that referenced two of Belgium’s best-known artists.

    Vive la Sociale!” was based on—among other things—James Ensor’s famous painting

  • Mark Manders

    It was in 1986 that Mark Manders began using the term “Self-Portrait as a Building” to describe the project he is still pursuing today: a never-ending accumulation of works—sculptures, installations, and so on—that interact with or comment on one another. In his recent show in Antwerp, Manders presented the latest chapter in this ongoing story, another wing in the edifice of this ever-growing oeuvre.

    In Parallel Occurrences / Documented Assignments, the catalogue published in 2010 on the occasion of a traveling exhibition organized by the Aspen Art Museum and the Hammer Museum, Manders

  • Tony Oursler

    Tony Oursler has taken Belgium by storm. “Glare Schematics,” at Galerie Albert Baronian, one of two impressive exhibitions recently on view in that country, was a crowded and outrageous mixture of works on paper and mixed-media sculpture, depicting happy people, devils, talking masks, and more. Among the sculptures were four wall-mounted, branching metal structures that evoke family trees—send-ups, maybe, of the seriousness of those who try to go back in time and rediscover their forefathers. In Oursler’s world, this is a perfect starting point for putting together sometimes absurd combinations

  • Tim Rollins and K.O.S.

    It’s been more than thirty years since Tim Rollins invited a group of “at-risk” pupils from a South Bronx public school to start an art project with him. They chose the moniker K.O.S. (for Kids of Survival) as a badge of honor. Rollins and the Kids set out to produce art collaboratively through a process they called “jamming,” in reference to a preferred method of jazz musicians. Rollins or one of the Kids would read aloud a carefully chosen passage from a book while the others made free-associative drawings reflecting on what they heard. But this approach, which explored the more ephemeral

  • “Glory Hole”

    As a critic, I am normally hesitant to use such words as memorable or exceptional, but when I visited the alternative art venue LLS 387 Ruimte voor Actuele Kunst to see the exhibition “Glory Hole,” these were exactly the words that came to mind. Before visiting, I was skeptical of the show’s premise: The space would supposedly be transformed into a “darkroom”—here the term refers not to a place where film is developed, but a room, like those sometimes found in gay bars or movie theaters, where customers can go to have sex. It seemed like there was a good chance the show would turn out to

  • Philip Aguirre y Otegui

    Even before entering Mu.ZEE, the museum hosting the latest exhibition of the work of Belgian artist Philip Aguirre y Otegui, the approaching visitor could see the epoxy sculpture Fallen Dictator, 2005, which looked like a knocked-over prop or a showroom dummy behind the building’s ground-floor windows. This association seemed particularly appropriate, given that the building was once a department store; these very same windows formerly showcased the latest fashion trends. But while the windows were designed for commercial promotion, Aguirre’s sculpture is meant to criticize power. It is hard to

  • Dirk Braeckman

    Recently a Swedish curator told me that he learned a lot about Belgium by looking at Dirk Braeckman’s work. If this is the case, there must be something rotten in the state of Belgium. His dark, gloomy photographs provoke an uncanny feeling. It is almost never clear what it is you see in the gray murk, and if you think you do know, a split second later you’ll start to doubt it. With shows in Leuven and Antwerp and the publication of a vast monograph on his work, Braeckman seemed to be Belgium’s unavoidable artist this autumn. And that’s more than justified, since he is one of the very few who

  • Adrian Ghenie

    The absurdities and coincidences of childhood can shape your viewpoint for life. Growing up in Cluj, Romania, Adrian Ghenie was taught to worship the father of the state, Nicolae Ceauşescu. At the age of twelve, Ghenie lived through the “trial” and execution of the man whose photograph hung in every school—a sudden shock that turned the world as he knew it upside down. Meanwhile, his real father worshipped someone totally different. Playing in a rock ’n’ roll band, dressed up as Elvis, Ghenie Sr. paid tribute to the first global pop icon.

    The First International Dada Fair took place in 1920

  • picks September 06, 2010

    Philip Metten

    In late June, what seemed like an object from outer space or a futuristic temple landed in Hasselt, Belgium. The outsize sculpture is, in fact, Philip Metten’s most recent tour de force and his first solo exhibition, “INNERCOMA.” According to the artist, the title is a word that refers to “a state of mind.” So far, hundreds of people have attended screenings, performances, concerts, and other artistic interventions that have turned the museum into a vivid platform for Metten, several other artists, and his friends.

    During the opening celebrations on June 27, there was an outstanding performance

  • Narcisse Tordoir

    Narcisse Tordoir is one of Belgium’s best-kept secrets. Besides having taken a rather unusual artistic route, Tordoir has nurtured several generations of upcoming talent as a teacher and a curator, for instance through the milestone exhibition “Trouble Spot: Painting” at Museum van Hedenaagse kunst Antwerpen and New International Culture Centre in Antwerp, which he cocurated with Luc Tuymans in 1999. With a clever presentation, and mixing renowned names such as Marlene Dumas, John Currin, and Kerry James Marshall with younger artists, the show proved that the medium of painting was and would

  • Chris Burden

    After nearly four decades, Chris Burden is still best known for his early 1970s performances, which continue to influence new generations of artists. Seeing the filmed performance Shoot, 1971, again at the Middelheim Museum, one realized that the raw power of the action remains intact after all these years. The piece marked a radical shift in the relationship between artist and spectator: The audience became accomplices instead of innocent viewers. But most disturbing of all was the filmed performance Velvet Water, 1974, thanks to a contemporary resonance that could not have been imagined at