An Exhibition in Paris Confronts the Brutalization of Women

At Alberta Pane Gallery in Paris, Regina José Galindo and Iva Lulashi take different approaches to articulating the experience of women in society

BY Wilson Tarbox in Exhibition Reviews | 18 MAR 24

The female figure predominates in the works of Guatemalan visual and performance artist Regina José Galindo and Albanian artist Iva Lulashi. For Galindo, the body depicted is often her own, whereas Lulashi uses paint and canvas to render ambiguous, prurient scenes. ‘Mujer, Mujer, Mujer’ (Woman, Woman, Woman), on view at Alberta Pane Gallery, opposes the artists in a ‘double solo show’ split between the gallery’s two store-front spaces on rue de Montmorency: several works by Galindo are in the main gallery, while Lulashi’s paintings are displayed across the road in the second, slightly narrower space.

Regina José Galindo, Piel, 2001, lambda print on forex, 150 × 100 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Alberta Pane; photography: Mami Kiyoshi

Galindo’s videos and photographs document performances in which she positioned herself in scenes of staged precarity and abuse as a way of representing violence against women in her native country. The works on display range from somewhat absurd images – La Sombra (The Shadow, 2017), for instance, in which the subject runs towards the camera as a tank rolls behind her – to the less graphic but more disturbing video-performance La Verdad (The Truth, 2013). In this piece, Galindo reads aloud first-hand accounts of rape and genocide during the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War. La Verdad is punctuated by the intervention of a dentist, who periodically injects local anaesthetic into her mouth, causing her speech to slur. It is the most potent work in the show for the way that it stages and dramatizes a history of physical and sexual violence and for its allusion to ongoing forms of government censorship, obfuscation and forgetting. In works such as a still from the video of the performance Piel (Skin, 2001), the artist utilizes her naked body as a conduit for articulating the reification of women. However, La Verdad feels more impactful because it is the only piece in the exhibition where the brutalized women speak. Even if the viewer cannot see their faces nor knows their names, Galindo’s ventriloquizing of her own voice to bear witness for these women’s suffering offers them agency and presence in a way that the other works do not.

Regina José Galindo, ‘Mujer, mujer, mujer’, 2024, exhibition view. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Alberta Pane; photography: Mami Kiyoshi

In the second space, Lulashi’s paintings speak to questions of sexuality in a much more ambivalent way. According to the gallery literature, the artist is ‘inspired by the visual culture of the Communist era in her native Albania’ and ‘uses vintage photographs and paintings depicting trivial outdoor scenes, as well as propaganda images, which she mixes with erotic films’. This description holds true for images that contain something of the spatial and atmospheric ambiguity of AI-generated images. For instance, in L’offesa e l’ombra (The Offense and the Shadow, 2023), a young girl in a plaid skirt and long white socks stands limply, like a rag doll. She is supported by a pair of hands that reach around to unbutton her shirt. The hands belong to a presumably male figure whose only other visible attribute is a pair of blue jeans accentuating his height. There is dense green foliage in the background where the rest of his body should be. What is Communist about these images is not clear to me. Their surfaces blend a painterly sfumato with the grainy quality of old polaroids.

Iva Lulashi, Discutendo Sui Bassifondi, 2023, oil on canvas, 80 × 120 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Alberta Pane; photography: Mami Kiyoshi

Although the artists’ works are not installed in direct conversation, they provide interesting counterpoints. The phlegmatic ambivalence of Lulashi’s paintings highlights the visual impact of Galindo’s images. The directness of photography and video make Galindo’s figures immediate and present, their discursive functions in-your-face and militant. Lulashi’s strange compositions, by contrast, teeter on the edge of legibility, requiring a slower, more careful form of looking. Overall, Galindo manipulates her medium to greater effect. Her images challenge the viewer to remain indifferent when confronted with the horror and suffering of the world, whereas Lulashi manages to make even sensuous scenes of lovemaking appear cold and bleak.

'Mujer, Mujer, Mujer’ is on view at Alberta Pane Gallery, Paris, until 30 March 

Main image: Regina José Galindo, Detrás de le ventana (detail), 2020, lambda print on dibond, 100 × 150 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Alberta Pane; photography: Mami Kiyoshi

Wilson is an art historian, journalist and critic based in Paris.