Schönfeld Gallery presents a dialogue between Belgian artists ​ Frans Masereel and Albert Pepermans

From 5 November until 23 December, Schönfeld Gallery presents the exhibition Rencontre dans la ville with works by Frans Masereel (1889-1972) and Albert Pepermans (°1947). The exhibition, curated by Frank Hendrickx, focuses on the two Belgian artists' shared love for the city. In their oeuvre, numerous urban motifs (bridges, chimneys, factories, high-rise apartments, city dwellers, etc...) recur repeatedly in a distinctive graphic and energetic style in which black and white, speed and immediacy, inexhaustible energy and chaos are the main elements.

Rencontre dans la ville includes brush drawings and woodcuts by Masereel from different periods: preliminary studies for his graphic novel avant la lettre La Ville and for Stijn Streuvels' De vlaschaard, as well as work from the series Histoire de fou and La condition humaine. In addition to existing work, Pepermans brings new work inspired by Masereel's oeuvre: small canvases in acrylic, larger paintings on wood and some blow-ups of original drawings by Masereel. All departing from the city as a central theme.

The speed and directness of the brush strokes do not only attest to the artists' enthusiasm and inexhaustible energy, but also refer to the hectic pace at which life in the city presides. Whereas Masereel's graphic novel La Ville (1925) sounds like an urban symphony, Pepermans' city dances, somewhat cheekily, to the rhythm of rock 'n' roll and punk.

The cityscapes of Masereel and Pepermans show similarities in terms of theme and style, but nevertheless have different overtones. This is due to the different context in which the artists lived. Masereel sketches the dystopian city. His work is political and socially critical. The artist lived through two world wars, drew the horrors of those wars, and tried to convince his fellow men of pacifism. In the industrial city of Ghent, he became confronted with the socialists' struggle for better living conditions for workers. The exploitation of the worker by capitalist society became an important theme within his work. Based in Paris, it was mainly the anonymity of the French metropolis that had a great impact on Masereel. In his work, the artist juxtaposes the solitary individual against the crowd, which he portrays with technical accuracy.

Pepermans also sketches the 'condition humaine', but is less militant and stays far away from politics. His work shows clear influences of the golden '60s and '70s: pop art, dada, the Neue Wilde, happenings, rock 'n' roll, anarchic punk, and undergroundtrips. Pepermans creates a positive image of the city in which the 'joie de vivre' is central. As such, the car is glorified as king of the city and symbolizes the freedom of traveling, being on the road, and the climax of reaching the final destination. A contrast to Masereel, who paints a rather negative picture of urban traffic in all its haste, chaos and danger.

Rencontre dans la ville ​
5 November - 23 December 2023
Schönfeld Gallery
Rivoli, Brussels
Waterloosesteenweg 690
1180 Brussels

Curator: Frank Hendrickx

Frans Masereel

Albert Pepermans



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