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Samuel Jablon      

Bad Time

until June 6, 2021


Ballon Rouge is pleased to present New York based painter and poet Samuel Jablon's 'Bad Time' until June 6, 2021, in Brussels. The exhibition includes his most recent works made since the start of 2021. 


For the occasion of the exhibition we published a book of the works and poems Samuel produced in 2020 and 2021, with essays by John Yau, Francesca Gavin, and an interview with Morgan Aguiar-Lucander. The following is our Epilogue:


It’s true that it’s been a Bad Time lately. We’re writing this at the tail end of February 2021 — a little over a year since the start of worldwide lockdowns, terrible losses, sickness, fear. Besides this, there have been protests all over the globe for equality and human rights, climate crises. And still we are all collectively fighting against the proverbial big bad wolf. It begs the question: When has it ever been a Good Time?


We were in New York at the beginning of March in 2020 for an exhibition. Together with Sam we had a night out at some NADA party, at which a lot of the chats were about this unknown virus. At the art fairs, the virus lingered in people’s minds — but the hesitation about it only showed itself in the shy replacement of cheek kisses with elbow bumps. Still, that night we shared a joint with people; still, we were talking quite close — maskless — inside and outside of a relatively small and crowded bar downtown. There was some urgency to the situation — but how could we have known how truly surreal and bad it would become? Sam gave us his puffy red jacket outside to keep warm while smoking cigarettes; sharing is a gesture that feels unbelievable now. That night he stayed out much later than us. The next morning, he sent us a photo of a painting he had made during the early hours, maybe without any sleep. It read: “innocent culprit.” 


That night and in those early days, and perhaps even still, we were and are all innocent culprits. We still get a little breathless when looking at that work. It has such a pointed power. It was so perfectly timed that it was almost prophetic. 


In a recent public Zoom talk with Mike Cloud and Sam that was organized by The Brooklyn Rail, Cloud said of Sam: “His work always refers to a truth that exists in our world. The [written] statement is not funny or ironic unless it points outside of itself to our shared truth — which is a funny thing for a painting to try to do — to not try to create its own truth for us to fall into, but to always keep us outside of it in a shared truth.”


This is precisely what is so enticing about Sam’s works and poems, too — their unpretentious intellect, their inclusion, and their ability to reflect the moment. 


Ballon Rouge has done three solo exhibitions with Sam, including the one for which this book is produced:


Doomed in Los Angeles in 2018.

Don’t Panic in London in 2019.

And now Bad Time in Brussels in 2021.


Every exhibition Sam does is like a timeless time capsule. Looking at the shows’ titles — and thinking about the works displayed in each of them — it’s as if they’ve only gained meaning with time. This unique ability of Sam’s to be both of the moment and outside of it is what made us want to produce this book. 


We also produced a small edition book dedicated solely to the works in his Don’t Panic exhibition in 2019. This book, on the other hand, is more all-encompassing; it is made up of most of the works and poems Sam produced during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a few exceptions.  We see it as a moment in time perfectly captured by an artist we are sure will have a long and influential career.


Let’s all hope Nothing Bad Happens anymore.

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