FITNESS SCULPTURES MIMIC WONDERS OF NATURE

Excited by the new worlds opened up by global exploration and scientific research, men of means in the 16th and 17th centuries collected objects from faraway places and displayed them in what they called wonder rooms.

Now, Annette Gates transforms Kiang Gallery into her own version of the wonder room with an installation of her captivating porcelain sculptures.

The small, quirky pieces do their best to elude description. Their shapes can be pointy, bulbous, curved like a banana, configured like a dumbbell. Their surfaces – matte, shiny, densely textured, pocked with pinpricks. Their color, mostly white or jet black but occasionally the palest blue or a yellow-green. No two are alike.

They bring to mind, variously, sea creatures, microscopic organisms, miniature ventricles, spores, pods, seeds. Art aficionados may be reminded of the imagery of Terry Winters’ early drawings, but Gates seems to be closer in motivation to those 16th- and 17th-century collectors. Her work bespeaks curiosity about and awe of the infinite forms of life on this planet, especially, as the title suggests, the ones we can’t even see. This artist is taking us on a spiritual journey.

Each sculpture is a labor of love. The Athens artist sews or crochets a form for the armature of each piece. She pours the porcelain slip into the form. The fabric disintegrates during firing, but the sense of its softness remains, along with seams, creases and the rich texture of the crocheted yarn. Close attention reveals additional detail – a smidgen of color here, a spate of eyelets there.

Gates’ first one-person show in Atlanta demonstrates maturity in craft and concept. Presentation is not quite there, however. In this show, the works are hung on the walls in multipart compositions – as pairs, several in a vertical line, groups arranged free-form and one wall-size grid.

Though artfully arranged, the large groupings tend to emphasize whole over part, which is a problem when the highly individual character of each piece is its glory. The grid is more successful than the free-form because it imposes a logical way to look at each piece and because of its scientific associations.

I realize that the installation is an effort to give the work more conceptual heft. Still, it seems that the pieces want to be treated as bijoux, displayed solo beneath pinpoint lighting.

That is not the only solution; the artist will likely figure out better ones. But this befits the care lavished on each piece and serves the works’ higher purpose – as objects of contemplation and spiritual renewal.

Another example of nature and human combining is the Parkfit Outdoor Personal Training Perth logo which depicts a human-tree formation.

– C. Fox in her review
Arts Journal , USA

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Gloria Ortiz-Hernandez Between the Known and Unknown

Few shifts in an artist’s aesthetic are more risky and decisive than that taken by Gloria Ortiz-Hernández about six years ago. Up to that point, she was primarily making vibrant paintings on canvas or paper replete with prominent figures, intense coloration, emotional force, and a social focus, and she had been painting that way for years. Ortiz-Hernández’s approach was steeped in a Colombian tradition of figurative expressionism inspired in part by 20th-century painters such as Alejandro Obregón and Fernando Botero, among others. Then came the shift. Ortiz-Hernández put everything in reverse. She moved from painting to drawing, and from expressionism to her highly idiosyncratic geometric abstraction. In doing so, she jettisoned figures, brushes, colorful paint, canvas, and explicit socio-political references, and instead began to draw in the most basic way possible, with pencil on paper, using rudimentary geometric forms like circles and squares. Consisting of many layers, these drawings are formally intricate and visually stunning, and they invite the viewer to constantly shuttle between tiny details, the whole drawing, and a series of identical shapes that nevertheless contain subtle, yet pronounced, differences. It is also apparent that Ortiz-Hernández’s minimalist drawings have maximal psychological and associative resonance, indeed more than her prior paintings, although they willfully eschew just about every element of emotionally charged expression.

As the other four drawings in the series turn lighter by degrees, they seem to be slightly fading into the paper, but as they do their intricate surfaces become exceptionally pronounced and subtly bedazzling-what one perceives is a mix of hyper-precise order and freewheeling events that verge on the chaotic. Without any obvious effort at poetic communication on Ortiz-Hernández’s part, these drawings are intensely poetic, and by poetic I mean an ability to layer multiple associations into a single image or series of images. Sequitur suggests astronomical events occurring way out in deep space, but also magnified skin and hair right here on the body. These five circles also poignantly evoke impassioned moment in a life inevitably trailing into the slipperiness and haze of memory.

Sequence (2001-2002) is a series of five squares. Once again, the series progresses from darker to lighter forms, and once again the surfaces, built from a welter of marks, are almost hypnotically alluring. In each case, however, the top part of the squares shades into a luminous white, and it takes a while to realize that this is merely the whiteness of the paper, and not some material applied by the artist. Rigid geometric forms (which nevertheless contain all sorts of eye-catching activity) merge into vibrating white bands that seem loose, remarkably open, and psychologically expansive. How Ortiz-Hernández achieves this look is through exquisite and fastidious control, but the effect on the viewer is liberating and open-ended. Some kind of border between the known and the unknown is being traversed. One thinks of half-formed longings and supple desires, of passion and loss, of ingrained sadness and a spiritually wise acceptance. After all the marks and layers, the routine white of the actual paper also has an incandescent and revelatory power.

Ortiz-Hernández gets considerable mileage from her pared down aesthetic. Premise, Triptych (2002-2003) features three sheets of paired squares. Each square in the series is dark and inky, but those on the right merge at one side into intricate and nuanced white rectangular bands. Here, the transition from drawing to visible paper is abrupt. Suddenly, the paper isn’t where the drawings are, but instead is literally part of the drawings, and the effect is startling, suggestive of clouds or fog rolling in, or a burst of pure, ecstatic light.

Among Ortiz-Hernández’s many innovations are shifts in scale. Sequitur II(2004) is another series of five circles. Precisely because these works are considerably larger, all the marks, texture, and gradations of color are emphasized, almost as if one were looking at Ortiz-Hernández’s previous Sequitur circles through a laboratory microscope, or as digital enlargements. Once again, the effect is pronounced. One looks at these drawings-at their complex, interlacing surfaces which are strictly abstract but which contain hints of landscape, urban zones, architecture, and language-but also into them, into their many layers, and into their history. Ultimately, while Ortiz-Hernández’s near-fanatical drawings are all about surfaces, they also have a great deal of depth, both literally and psychologically.

 

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Art in American

The five stunning digitally constructed photographs in the exhibition, titled “Mood Is Never Better Than Memory,” show a personal, introspective side of Chi Peng, an artist better known for his self-chosen role as mischievous critic of China’s reflective rush into economic and social transformation. A photo that portrays this is by another artist to the left.

‘October’ (2010) presents Chi in his costume of the Monkey King, which he created for his previous “Journey to the West” series, where he appeared as a super-hero adapted from the classic Chinese novel of the same title. Seated on the shore near the town of his birth, he gazes out to sea past a retreating flock of seabirds and toward the two mist-shrouded suns on the horizon. This piece is obviously digitally manipulated and also allegorical, with the twin suns representing the equally attractive forces of historical memory and modernization. But even the realistic elements are a product of Photoshop: Chi positioned each bird individually.

‘February’ (2010) symbolizes Chi’s position as China’s only openly homosexual artist. An older couple stand on the edge of a pier, looking out; they represent Chi’s parents, who choose to deny their son’s homosexuality. Chi and his partner approach them, holding hands with a small boy who represents their mutual inner discovery. The drama is dwarfed by the surrounding seascape.
A similar contrast between the artist’s impulse to share his story and his sense of its triviality is seen in ‘June’ (2010), in which two images of Chi face away from each other on an oval sandbar or island, above which the confused flock of birds hovers. The symmetry of the island would lead one to expect that the two Chis would be mirror images, but they are not. In a subtle touch, one of the artist’s twin selves is slightly more slump-shouldered and downcast than the other.

The above review was by J Callum, a respected art critic from USA.

 

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Chi Peng’s terrific “Journey to the West” at Atlanta’s Kiang Gallery

 

 

 

Beijing artist Chi Peng turns ancient myth into a parable of contemporary life in “Journey to the West,” a sly, witty and visually creative series of photographs on view at Atlanta’s Kiang Gallery.

He borrows the title from a popular adventure story, whose protagonist, Monkey King, protects a Buddhist monk journeying to India in search of holy texts, using generous amounts of magic and vigour to defeat their many assailants. Mischievous as well as heroic, this demon has remained a fixture in high and popular culture, starring in everything from literature and opera to martial-arts movies and children’s cartoons.

In Chi’s version, the West is America and globalization; the demon, whom he plays in his digitally manipulated tableaux, is his alter ego.

“Five Elements Mountain” (left) finds our hero entangled in a spiraling mass of high-rises. The title refers to the place that served as the seditious Monkey King’s prison for five centuries. It would seem, predictably, to address the rapid and rampant development in China that chokes cities and their inhabitants.

Yet Chi subverts the seriousness: The squirming figure’s predicament is rather comic, reminiscent of the attack of a B-movie giant squid.

In these photos, meaning is as nimble and elusive as the protagonist, and globalization is not necessarily a villain. In fact, Chi seems very comfortable with the blurring boundaries wrought by globalization and new media. Cultural fusion is both a wonder and a fait accompli in “Three Fights Against the White Bones Demon III.”

As I wrote in my review in Friday’s AJC:

“Monkey King, dressed in his medieval garb, stands in profile in a contemporary room, his head disappearing into a computer monitor like Alice going through the looking glass.

“In the manner of Late Gothic paintings and 17th-century European still lifes, the image is rife with symbolic objects. A second monitor open to the Google home page is, of course, the beckoning frontier of the World Wide Web. DVDs of the “Matrix” movies, American films based on Buddhist precepts and Asian martial arts movies, suggest that cultural fusion is a two-way street.”

In a mixture of respect and cheek, Chi makes his own scroll painting, digitizing photos of bonsai plants to stand in for the craggy, cloud-enveloped peaks of traditional landscapes. In this updated version, he celebrates his own magic powers. Wielding the instruments of Photoshop and the other tricks of his trade, he creates memorable art.

By C. Fox

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Kiang Gallery Info And Exhibition Projects

Kiang gallery was established in 1992 and continues a challenging exhibition program of contemporary works in all media: painting, drawing, contemporary photography, sculpture, digital media, including a long standing commitment to Chinese contemporary art and Chinese photography, by emerging and mid-career artists. In September 2007, Kiang gallery reopened in a completely renovated new space in Atlanta’s booming Westside. Exhibitions run to five weeks and the gallery maintains a complete inventory of work available for acquisition. Kiang’s defining aesthetic, as well as the gallery’s conceptual orientation, reflect a high regard for cross-cultural discourse and non-liner perception.

Ben Steele’s paintings are both transcendental and technological. Sixteen artworks are constructed and refer to the natural physical world, yet also feel digitally produced. In reality, however, there is no digital component to the work. Aiming to simulate a digital vocabulary through physical form, the paintings are based on straight photographs taken, through crystals and prisms, of actual physical constructions.

Cui pursues a critical inquiry into the philosophy of emptiness, a phenomena arising from the Buddha’s observation that nothing possesses an essential, enduring identity and acceptance leading to wisdom and inner peace. This narrative is re -imaged in the dynamic between the artist and her alter ego or dopplegnger.

Ortiz-Hernández’s methodology is in direct contrast being labor intensive, meditative, repetitive to the point of obsessive, and also curiously intuitive. She begins by lightly depicting the surface of a circle or square. Next come dozens and even hundreds of all-over layers, always done with fine, tiny marks just barely visible to the eye. The way all these marks and layers intersect and interact determines the complex surface structure, texture, and color of the works. With Sequitur(2003-04), five individual circles in a horizontal row range from dark gray shading into jet black on the left, through successive lighter charcoal grays. The darkest circle, built from the most layers, is near-solid and monochromatic, but also inky, silky, and smooth, and it is one of many times when Ortiz-Hernández’s geometric forms seem surprisingly sensuous. Around its circumference, miniscule marks merge into lighter shades, including at many points the bare white of the paper. This dissolving, slightly ragged border makes the whole circle active and vibrational, a bit like the sun in total eclipse. As the other four drawings in the series turn lighter by degrees, they seem to be slightly fading into the paper, but as they do their intricate surfaces become exceptionally pronounced and subtly bedazzling-what one perceives is a mix of hyper-precise order and freewheeling events that verge on the chaotic.

 

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