For his latest exhibition, “Suovetaurilia” at Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome, Belgian artist ROA created works that interact with Rome’s past and present, resulting in a narrative about humankind’s exploitation of the natural world. The title of the exhibition refers to the ritual of animal sacrifice, a common practice in Rome’s pagan history. ROA created all the works in the show on site in the weeks leading up to the opening, using scavenged furniture and cabinets as the canvases for his black-and-white, illustrative animal portraits.
While in past exhibitions, ROA has focused on depicting the local animals of the region, for “Suovetuarilia” he painted elephants, giraffes and rhinos as a way of drawing attention to animal trafficking, a practice in which wild animals (or their tusks, fur, et cetera) are illegally smuggled across international borders. The pieces in the show are all interactive. At the October 31 opening reception, gallery goers were invited to open the various portraits on antique, wooden boxes to reveal the animals’ innards. ROA presents the incisions with a scientific aloofness, yet there is a morbid quality to the works as viewers must see the creatures’ faces before they inspect their bones and muscles. The discomforting effect in intentional. Not only is ROA drawing viewers’ awareness to animal rights issues, but part of the proceeds of the exhibition will be donated to wildlife protection charities.