Saâdane Afif and Fabien Verschaere, Apr. 27-June 3, 2002, at Parker's Box, 193 Grand Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211
The already polyglot streets of Williamsburg in Brooklyn were more French than usual last month, as the "Paris Brooklyn Art Exchange" brought a dozen or so French artists to Brooklyn galleries (and will send some New Yorkers to Paris this July). The best of the esthetic "force de frappe" was the show at Parker's Box of works by Saâdane Afif, 32, and Fabien Verschaere, 27, two artists who are represented by Galerie Michel Rein in Paris' Marais district. Parker's Box was opened in 1999 by artist Alun Williams.
Verschaere is something of a cartoonist, and here presents a large black and white Wall Drawing and a framed series of candy-colored watercolors on paper titled "75 Drawings" (he's also done performances, including one in which he spent the day doing ordinary things while wearing big red boxing gloves). The drawings (which are $800 each) depict figures both fantastic and banal, distilled through a childlike hand -- a floating spaceman with a baby on his umbilical cord, an axe-wielding monster, an image of two trees on a floating soccer field.
When asked about a drawing of a priest with a pig's head, Verschaere chuckled and said "America." He seems to favor images of sex (there are a lot of erections) and violence, which could be about American culture, or perhaps about conflicting desires.
Afif is a North African who was born in France and in now on a residency in Glasgow, and this jumble of roots gives him an interesting perspective on nationality. His installation, titled "Fuck with My Mind," consists of several sculptures assembled out of ordinary objects, all obtained here in New York. On one wall is National, a kind of flag made of three pieces of thrift-shop clothing, colored red, white and blue, sewed together into the configuration of a French flag -- with the white section made of a t-shirt printed with a Coca-Cola logo, a wry comment on French identity.
Another work, titled Don't Worry, consists of two disco balls hanging all the way down to the floor, slowly spinning and casting their reflections around the room. The sculpture Paradise consists of an orchid in a pot in a cardboard box, with a hanging grow-light suspended above it. These two sculptures (priced at $4,000) are typical of Afif, simple gestures with cosmic overtones.
In an earlier exhibition, he shut down Gallery Michel Rein and plastered the outside walls with his friends' design and print work, and he has floated a self-propelled boat down the Seine playing techno music. The final work at Parker's Box, called Black Flag, is a kind of gothic macho logo hung on the wall, a work that grounds the ethereal references with its bellicose reference.
The works in the show are as different as the artists, one short and rude who flipped off a guy who bummed a cigarette, and the other, tall and suave, swimming through the opening night crowd. Still, they seem to go together, contrasting the hipster with the loner, the contemporary and the traditional, for a compelling exhibition.
WILLIAM POWHIDA is an artist and writer living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.