Tribute to Heironymus Bosch in Congo
Working with an obscene amount of naturally discarded, fingernail-sized jewel beetle shells, Belgian artist Jan Fabre creates extraordinary scenes of glimmering emerald in a critical look at King Leopold II and the atrocity of the Congo Free State. In his attempt to acquire the African colony in the late 19th century, the Belgian monarch became responsible for the death and mutilation of millions of Congolese people. Fabre explores this onslaught through "Tribute to Hieronymus Bosch in Congo"—a visually enchanting large-scale series that uses allegory to condemn the brutalist regime.
Two of Fabre's works were recently on view at Scope Art Fair in Miami through Salzburg's Mario Mauroner Contemporary Art gallery. The pieces, "Negro with Crows" (2012) and "Punishment of Lust" (2011) were undoubtedly some of the more stunning implementations of non-traditional mediums, exploring the limits of beetlewing, an art form that is mainly limited to jewelry in Thailand, India and neighboring countries.
Insects have been a part of Fabre's work since the 1970s, and the artist has even covered the ceiling and chandelier of the Hall of Mirrors in the Royal Palace of Belgium in a permanent installation titled "The Heaven of Delight." Fabre and his team of assistants assemble the work painstakingly, manipulating the direction of the wings to create lines and contours on the flat surface. The initial effect of encountering one of the glittering works is, predictably, shell-shock.
Sharply critical of the role that religion played in the attack, Fabre uses infamous Bosch symbols like pigs and crows to express the brutality of the Belgian colonization of the resource-rich Congo, which was targeted mainly for ivory and rubber. Fabre's work is as visibly striking as it is deep in meaning. His ability to borrow from Bosch while creating an entirely new work put him at the top of our list for a not-to-miss in Miami this year. You can also see more of Fabre's beetlewing art in his current exhibition at Galerie Kluser in Munich.
Guest post by Cool Hunting Editors for Miami Art Week 2012
Image via BHP