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.
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.
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 behaviours: it grew up on cut-and-paste, it deploys Postmodern samplings and relishes in radical decontextualisation. 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.
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.
Press release courtesy Perrotin.