Dark Laughter: Four New York artists take an amusing, cynical look at the modern world

A Woman Is Always Prepared by Genesis Belanger (2019). Courtesy the artist and Perrotin. Photo: Pauline Shapiro

There's a little dark humour coming from a corner of London this month, as four New York-based artists share their latest work in a new exhibition, offering a cheeky, cynical look at the modern world.

Genesis Belanger, Ellen Berkenblit, June Leaf and Emily Mae Smith all use imagery that at first seem to have a reassuring familiarity, but – on closer inspection – have a rueful, sometimes sardonic attitude towards life in the 21st century.

Leaf is part of the original Chicago 'Monster Roster'. Along with Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, H.C. Westermann, and others, she is one of the unsung visionaries of contemporary painting and sculpture.

Berkenblit, meanwhile, places her recurrent snub-nosed pictorial alter ego in an off-balance kaleidoscopically-shifting world of abstract shapes, domestic and wild beasts – all with the familiar trappings of daily life. With the exception of other people; her world is all for herself, even when it's not quite as she'd want it.

Smith uses a recurrent avatar in her stylistically diverse paintings: a broom, not unlike the one that rebelled against Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney’s Fantasia: "This very lowly thing that became very powerful when someone tried to control it," as Smith says: a feminist revolt.

The ceramic or concrete sculptures of Belanger are whimsical remakes of ordinary things that conjure an eerie alternative world in which objects might be alive while the human body has been frozen in scattered parts.

The exhibition, Dark Laughter, is curated by Barry Schwabsky, a poet as well as art critic for The Nation and co-editor of international reviews for Artforum. It'll run at the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London until 23 November.

The Painters by June Leaf (c. 1975-80)

The Painters by June Leaf (c. 1975-80)

The Options Are Slim by Genesis Belanger (2019). Courtesy the artist and Perrotin. Photo: Pauline Shapiro

The Options Are Slim by Genesis Belanger (2019). Courtesy the artist and Perrotin. Photo: Pauline Shapiro

Studies (Jet Spray) (Study for Woman Monument) by June Leaf (1975)

Studies (Jet Spray) (Study for Woman Monument) by June Leaf (1975)

As You Please by Genesis Belanger (2019). Courtesy the artist and Perrotin. Photo: Pauline Shapiro

As You Please by Genesis Belanger (2019). Courtesy the artist and Perrotin. Photo: Pauline Shapiro

Circus of Books by Ellen Berkenblit (2019)

Circus of Books by Ellen Berkenblit (2019)

Move Camera by June Leaf (2003). Courtesy the artist and Perrotin. Photo: Pauline Shapiro

Move Camera by June Leaf (2003). Courtesy the artist and Perrotin. Photo: Pauline Shapiro