Unsettling and Mesmerizing: A Review of Nicolas Party's "Grotto" in Brussels
Last week we noted the upcoming opening of Nicolas Party's second solo exhibition with Brussels-baseed Xavier Hufkens gallery. As usually the case with Swiss-born artist, Grotto transformed the gallery's multilevel venue into a maze of vibrant spaces separated by signature arched doorways.
The show begins with a somewhat moody dark green room, where three large pastels depicting archetype cave images are displayed along with a one-torso sculpture. The smoothness and delicacy of these pastels are in great contrast with the polished surface of the sculpture, an ongoing dialogue that continues throughout Grotto. The contemporary take on the classical sculptural trope is intensified with subtle coloring that accents its curves and is adorned with a little trompe l’oeil insect addition as a nod to the detailed nature studies of Belgian native, Jan van Kessel the Elder.
This element turns out to be a leitmotif of the entire exhibition: unexpected and captivating details could be found on most of the other works. From a marble plate above one of the doorways, portraiture pastels all the way to biomorphic abstract sculptures, the beetles, caterpillars, and butterflies are tapping into darker fears related to death, decay and human transience. This is arguably most noticeable in the two brightly-painted sculptures on equally vibrant plinths, exhibited on the top floor of the gallery. Again in dialogue with the pastel paintings exhibited in another room, they are referencing Surrealist and mid-twentieth-century sculptures. Detailing with unknown organic fleshy forms with lumpy voluptuous contours accented through minute elusive painting, these particular works are just as mesmerizing as they are unsettling, feeling like the perfect climax of the enthralling exhibition.
Photos and text by Sasha Bogojev