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Asian Variegations / Highlights of CAM

Chelsea Art Museum, New York

Asian Variegations: the works on display collectively rely on trans-cultural dialogue. In essence, it argues that Asian art is as rich and varied as that of the West and that the creation of art is a constant learning process. Furthermore, the exhibition intends to encourage the variegated dialogue between older and younger artists. To celebrate the Ninth Anniversary of the Museum, CAM has gathered select works that represent highlights from the previous exhibitions.

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Asian Variegations
curated by Dr. Thalia Vrachopoulos.

Sam Cho, Wei Jia, Jinsoo Kim, Hisako Kobayashi, Lin Yan, Wang Ying, Hijo Nam, Yen-hua Lee and Lonnie Hong

When referencing Asian art, many historic scholars have quoted Okakura Kakuzo’s The Ideals of the East, which contends that “Asia is One.” Alternately, in his seminal book Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art, Ernest Fenollosa also treated Chinese and Japanese arts together[1]. However, Fenollosa’s intention is not only to seek similarities but mostly to ascertain the differences between the arts of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
Some of the most obvious general characteristics differentiating them are no longer relevant as they apply to conventional conceptions of Asian art, and not necessarily today’s globalized contemporary artist. For example, an important characteristic of traditional Chinese art is symmetry as opposed to Japanese art that embraces asymmetrical compositional styles. But these seemingly steadfast rules cannot be applied to the limitless boundaries of the modern artist or a contemporary context where, for example, canvases stripped of all color and form can be considered art.

The exhibition’s individual works may - to an extent – demonstrate important cultural and individual similarities and distinctions. Sam Cho, Wei Jia, Jinsoo Kim, Hisako Kobayashi, Lin Yan, Wang Ying, Hijo Nam, Yen-hua Lee and Lonnie Hong are in their mature period of their careers. Whether in painting, photography, or sculpture, they demonstrate both abstract and figurative modes. Wei Jia, Jinsoo Kim, and Hisako Kobayashi use an abstract style that is nevertheless fraught with content. Lin Yan, Wang Ying, Sam Cho, Hijo Nam, Yen-hua Lee, and Lonnie Hong work in an abstracted way inasmuch as their work contains some recognizable elements. However, in these works also, the subject matter contains issues of great personal as well as collective significance.

Jinsoo Kim’s abstract work deals with the conceptual underpinnings of art in that they examine the way we perceive the world. Consequently, his works depict spatial ambiguity while playing with 2-and-3-dimensional spatial constructions often favored in Korean art.
Sam Cho’s oeuvre also engages with perception but in the subject of digital media and its representation in flat as well as rounded forms. However, Cho also imposes humanism into the lifeless and cold idiom of science and electronic technology. Lonnie Hong’s work references natural elements, but its man-made materials prompt a dialogue between the contrast of nature and culture. Hong’s pieces are small but are then collated into larger installations resulting in a synthetic statement. Hijo Nam’s Brooklyn Night (2010) is not so much a direct, raw representation as it is a combination of memories of a Brooklyn street and a manifestation of the artist’s own introspection and nostalgia for her home country of Korea. In particular, the work references Han, which in Korean can be understood as a cultural and emotional melancholic state of isolation that, in Nam’s case, is brought on by a profound longing for home. Hisako Kobayashi’s Quiet Intensity (2011) examines the primal rhythms within the ethereal layers of the painting. Kobayashi’s symphonies in color contain layer upon layer of cloud-like brushstrokes reminiscent of the Kamakura Period’s Swift Raigo works, which are a Japanese style of painting that would be brought into the home of one who is near death. Ranging from deep purples and ocean green overlaid by soft white netting, the work is meant to impact the viewer with its poetic delicacy. Wei Jia’s work, while abstract, utilizes literal hand-made paper materials alluding to calligraphic characters. Jia’s softly layered and colored hand-made paper forms appear like ethereal floating sea creatures. Jia deals with dualities such as light on dark, and soft against hard materials with calligraphy that render his work even more flat and conceptual. This is a cultural proclivity evident in the very philosophy of Taoism, which embraces opposites in the path to enlightenment wherein the yin and yang forms are both full and empty simultaneously.

Lin Yan’s cast and torn paper works and black and white tones can be traced to the duality that exists between yin and yang, dark and light, and full and void, but her works are so much more complex. Yan’s American Pie (2011) and Gray City #5 (2010) omits details and colors that may readily identify the subject matter, such as flags or the colorful façades of buildings. The simple forms speak to her relationship to minimalist aesthetics and post-modern modularity. Wang Ying’s Mermaid (2010), depicts a winged form lying in a bathtub that is surrounded by a diminishing body of water. It may be that Ying’s Mermaid alludes to an old Chinese legend but it could also be a comment about the artistic exchange that occurred during the World Expo 2010 wherein Copenhagen’s treasured Little Mermaid statue was shipped to Shanghai and was then temporarily replaced by a video installation by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The background of Ying’s work is imbued in a red post-apocalyptic hue, emphasizing the Mermaid’s distressed plight and could very well be reflective of the recent controversial events surrounding Ai Weiwei’s imprisonment.

Taiwanese artists in the recent decade use aboriginal or Austronesian art as a model to comment on contemporary issues and society. For instance, Yen-hua Lee appropriates found books from all over the world and takes them out of context by incorporating her own markings and drawings within the existing texts. Her artistic vocabulary takes form in its simplest shape in Open and Closed (2011).

Despite the artistically and culturally disparate artists represented in the exhibition, the works collectively rely on trans-cultural dialogue. In essence, it argues that Asian art is as rich and varied as that of the West and that the creation of art is a constant learning process. Furthermore, the exhibition intends to encourage the variegated dialogue between older and younger artists, as well as contends that the complexity of global cross-pollination and artistic dissemination between countries and continents will only enhance future artistic developments.

[1] Ernest Fenollosa. Epochs of Chinese and Japanese art (Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York William Heinemann, London: 1912) p. xxiv


Highlights of CAM

Chelsea Art Museum is pleased to present Highlights of CAM, curated by Elga Wimmer.

To celebrate the Ninth Anniversary of the Museum, CAM has gathered select works that represent highlights from our previous exhibitions. Since CAM was established in 2002, we have been at the forefront for creative endeavors and have become a rich platform on which to cultivate artistic exchange, social critique, community development and cross-cultural understanding. As an inherently collaborative institution and the youngest contemporary art museum in New York City, CAM strives to deepen and foster new and existing partnerships with other well-established, like-minded cultural institutions. Throughout our rich history we have provided exposure for over 1,000 new and thriving voices of all art disciplines through artist talks, dance performances, musical performances and more than 150 exhibitions.

Abstraction Revisited examined the work of various contemporary artists engaged in abstraction, alongside examples from some of the first-generation masters of Abstract Expressionism. The works were chosen for their visual impact and the strong dialogue they establish between the first generation and today’s modern abstractionists. This juxtaposition seeks to shed light on the parallels and differences within a practice which is arguably more vital, innovative and relevant than ever. The genre continues to inspire the art world, as evidenced by a surge of interest from artists, critics and art lovers alike. While the younger artists acknowledge their illustrious predecessors, they are less prone to the indoctrination of tradition and are willing to mix genres and media, from painting and sculpture to photography, video and film. Haeri Yoo’s psychologically expressive and vigorous brushstroke in Failing Eye (2010) and Lydia Dona’s Love Affairs in the Freeze (2011) – her painting always preoccupied with urban environment and mechanical parts (much like Matta’s) – take abstraction away from the conventional approach of paint to canvas and represent the genre’s limitless versatility in terms of form and expression. From Jean Miotte and Roberto Matta’s vigorous abstraction to Giorgio Cavallon and Theodoros Stamos’ range of biomorphic figures and softly geometric forms, Abstraction Revisited presents a fresh take on artistic independence and individuality which remain as vital an inspiration today as it was when artists first sought freedom from direct representation.

Francisco de Goya’s etching and aquatint series Los Caprichos served as an inspiration to the exhibition Goya & Here Comes the Bogey-Man, which reflects man’s power of spiritual creation and the failings of his own nature. It is this characterization of man which makes it possible for Goya to depict the human figure as both beautiful and at the same time to portray it as a caricature with an awareness of man’s limitations. Such socio-political satire was enlightening to the Eighteenth-century rationalist, but has proven to be just as relevant to contemporary artists.

Goya’s renowned The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters reads: “Imagination deserted by reason, begets impossible monsters. United with reason, she is the mother of all arts, and the source of their wonders.” In Goya’s time, superstition, darkness, and uncertainty of the unknown was a source of fear. The artists in Here Comes the Bogey-Man give tribute to and carry the spirit of Goya into the 21st century. Here, they appropriate manifestations of our own modern monsters, as well as the vulnerable human frailties which continue to plague mankind: brutality, injustice, war, violence, arrogance, ignorance and vanity, perhaps best visually captured by Saint Clair Cemin’s tumultuous One Century Smites Another (1999). From Ray Smith and Conrad Atkinson’s modern renditions of Goya’s prints in Acrobacia Canina (2005) and The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (1985), respectively, to Madeleine Hatz’s apocalyptic Black Angel (2004) – it is evident that the relationship between the artist and society has never been more fragile or volatile. Rona Pondick’s Ram’s Head is a self-portrait of the artist with two ram’s horns that give her a sphinx-like, powerful and menacing appearance. Goya often played with the aspect of half animal/half human thus underlining the “animal” in humans’ behavior.

Jean Miotte’s distinctively gestural works will round out the exhibition and represent exactly what CAM has become known for: fusing the old and the new, the traditional and the contemporary. A proponent of L’Art Informel, which is often regarded as the European equivalent of Abstract Expressionism, the movement calls for a negation of traditional form and a radical break from established notions of order and composition. However, it is distinguished from its American counterpart by its loss of faith in progress and modernity through the expressive nature of the line and the steadfast belief that individual freedom is embodied within the spontaneity of the brushstroke. In response, Miotte developed a vocabulary of bold, quasi-calligraphic forms whose vaulting, liquid jets and arcs of paint were at once suggestive of the body in motion while at the same time denying corporality. Of prime importance for Miotte was the aspiration for this gestural, abstract language to create a bridge between cultures. Ultimately, his work aims to break beyond national barriers to form a truly international language, and foster individual dialogues within each culture.

Within his framework of gestural abstraction, Miotte continues to grow, fight repetition, and push at the boundaries of paint on canvas. While Miotte’s work remains committed to the utopian aspects of gestural abstraction, he has continued to progress by constantly pushing the boundaries and possibilities of line, gesture and the liquidity of paint.

Leading from the vigorous surface of Miotte’s canvases, So-Bin Park’s darkly enigmatic and subtly intricate piece sinuously stretches across the walls of the space. Selected from the exhibition Toward the Creation of a New Female Myth, Park’s starkly rendered forms play upon the extreme opposites – darkness and light, beauty and the repulsive, rough and the delicate. Park’s work also acts as a transition into to the second gallery, which will display Asian Variegations, a selectively curated exhibition of young contemporary artists representative of different Asian countries.

The artists shown in this collective exhibition represent the gamut of inspirations, subject matter, and media. However, what ties every work together is the artists’ commitment to CAM’s legacy of exploring innovative ways of viewing and experiencing art, a willingness to pose critical questions to already established ideals and – in the process – cultivate the next generation of artists, creative thinkers and visionaries.

Conrad Atkinson
Giorgio Cavallon
Saint Clair Cemin
Francisco de Goya
Lydia Dona
Madeleine Hatz
Roberto Matta
Jean Miotte
So-Bin Park
Rona Pondick
Ray Smith
Theodoros Stamos
Haeri Yoo
Lydia Dona.

Image: Lonnie Hong

For more information please contact:
Dr. Thalia Vrachopoulos +1.212.691.7978
Chris Longfellow Press Officer The Chelsea Art Museum 212-255-0719 x 108

Join us for an intimate gathering at the Chelsea Art Museum this Thursday, December 8, 6pm – 9 pm, which will honor L’Art Informel artist Jean Miotte and the momentous Ninth Anniversary of CAM!

Press Preview: Thursday, December 8, 5pm – 6pm; RSVP:
Opening Reception: Thursday, December 8, 6pm – 8pm

Chelsea Art Museum
556 West 22nd Street at 11th Avenue - New York
Museum Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 6pm | Thursday: 11am – 8pm; closed Sunday and Monday
General Admission: $8 for adults, $4 Students and Seniors

Asian Variegations / Highlights of CAM
dal 7/12/2011 al 22/12/2011

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