Radek Szlaga 'All the Brutes' @ Harlan Levey Projects

Who was it again that wrote every time he came to Brussels, he had to think of the plundered richness of the Congo on which this city was built? From Park Cinquentenaire, to the stately avenues Louise and Tervuren, King Leopold II’s Museum for Central Africa, there are countless buildings, sculptures and squares across town, which directly or indirectly remind us of the country’s colonial past. This makes the capital of Europe a perfect setting for Radek Szlaga’s exhibition "All the Brutes" on view now at Harlan Levey Projects. The show consists of a selection of works from his on-going series, which digs into Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness; a work that has become the textbook example in colonial studies of a caricatured depiction of Africa. Szlaga hasn’t followed Conrad to the Congo, but spent two months in Brussels on a residency this year exploring the links between the heart of Europe and the heart of darkness. In case any Belgian viewers might object to a body of work dealing with the Congo that’s painted by an artist who has never been to Africa, let’s remind ourselves that Leopold II never placed a foot on Congolese soil as he uprooted it. Besides, Szlaga’s aim is not to present some anthropological view on Congo, but to explore, in a pictorial way, how the novel is engrained in our collective imagination, whether that is through literature, cinema, painting or in daily life (like the all too often quoted: “The horror! The horror!”). Radek Szlaga 'All the Brutes' will be on view until July 11, 2015 at Harlan Levey Projects, 46 Rue Jean d’Ardenne Straat, Brussels.