3×300: Jen Liu, Christiana Soulou, and Paul Lee

The second installment of writer Brian Fee’s 3×300 for NYAB: on shows by Jen Liu (On Stellar Rays), Christiana Soulou (Friedrich Petzel Gallery) and Paul Lee (Maccarone Gallery).

poster for Brody Condon & Jen Liu Exhibition

Brody Condon & Jen Liu Exhibition

at On Stellar Rays
in the Lower East Side area
This event has ended - (2010-10-29 - 2010-12-19)

poster for Christiana Soulo

Christiana Soulo "Dancers"

at Petzel Gallery
in the Chelsea 14th - 19th area
This event has ended - (2010-10-29 - 2010-12-22)

poster for Paul Lee

Paul Lee "Lavender"

at Maccarone
in the Villages area
This event has ended - (2010-10-30 - 2010-12-22)

In Reviews by Brian Fee 2010-11-19 print


Though gallery On Stellar Rays has the privilege to host the New York debut exhibition of Brooklyn-based Jen Liu, you may have seen her work before. This truly multi-media artist, spanning painting, video, and performance, represented Liverpool’s Ceri Hand Gallery at this year’s VOLTA NY with a series of Constructivist-style watercolors on heavy blueprint paper. She teamed with Maria Chavez in a semi-improvised A/V performance titled “Fugue State”, named after Liu’s new works at the gallery, and the duo are preparing future collaborations, but I’m getting ahead of myself. At On Stellar Rays, Liu’s ongoing discourse with distilling and reinterpreting the news seems to have concentrated down from wildly phantasmagorical arrangements, like her Brethren watercolors series from 2007, into flatter and increasingly intense structured juxtapositions. Her works at VOLTA anticipated this: disparate imagery of chain-gangs and Tom of Finland, overlaid and partially obscured by diagonal slashes. Her new works, two large drawings entitled Fugue State (2010) and her Folded Black Cloud (2010) series, a quintet of resin-coated high-reliefs, extend this balance of compression and esprit. The chaotic interlinking machinations in Fugue State: Composition with Gray — the sepia-toned work group, the desaturated Piet Mondrian-like abstract, and the detail shot of a microwavable dinner, obscured by interwoven black and silver lines — are concealed by a trompe l’oeil rip, a jagged expanse of bare paper. Deep geometric folds refract the smoldering disasters, from volcanoes to war, in Folded Black Cloud, producing the aftereffect of looming shadows over the imagery. The landscapes rotated 90-degrees, seen here and in Fugue State, are intentional facets of the entropy. Perhaps our information-saturated reality, where memories collide with the mutable now, is akin to this fugue state. Liu succeeds in illustrating this chaos with increasingly deft visual cues toward a more accessible conclusion.

You are forgiven if you missed Christiana Soulou’s contribution to Jeff Koons’ curated “Skin Fruit” show, culled from Dakis Joannou’s collection, at the New Museum this past spring. Soulou’s delicate drawing series Water (1983-5) were nearly drowned out by their more gregarious neighbors, like Ashley Bickerton’s fleshy orb F.O.B. (1993) and Tim Noble & Sue Webster’s cast-silicon orgy Black Narcissus (2006). It is to our benefit, then, that we visit Friedrich Petzel Gallery for the Athens-based Soulou’s debut New York show, “DANCERS”. There is nothing here to distract us in this warmly lit gallery, lined with 16 lithe pencil drawings. They manifest an intrinsic weightlessness, all ectomorphs barely anchored to the paper. Soulou’s control of line work leaves no spare markings, the bare minimum needed to produce a girlish model in motion or at rest. This is not to say these buoyant renderings are somehow lacking: Sitting Dancer (2010) features a characteristically detailed girl, from the wrinkles in her crossed wrists to her toe-shoe clasps to her costume’s beadwork. But note the costume: so diaphanous that it nearly evaporates into the creamy paper. Tight Edge (2010) hones this controlled minimalism further: the dancer’s arabesque is formed ‘just so’ in a flow of single lines, but the details of her shoes, the indentations of her knees, and her opaque expression (repeated throughout and keeping with Soulou’s words that these are impressions of dancers, not specific portraits) are fully explored. I felt moments of Egon Schiele’s more realistic figuration, or perhaps a far earlier style, in traversing the 16 dancers. Crackles of erotic energy permeate some, like the translucent outfit of Dancer with Whistle (2010), the intense pose of Dancer with Ribbon (2010), but always ethereally. Consider this refinement an antidote to the spectacle shows proliferating the neighborhood.

Paul Lee’s sensitive new exhibition “Lavender” at Maccarone Gallery is his latest solo in New York since 2006. Despite a strong showing in the three-artist “Parallel” show at Bortolami Gallery last year, Brooklyn resident Lee seems to be everywhere but here, including exhibitions at Peres Projects in Los Angeles and an installation at The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX. Lee’s usual repertoire of utilitarian media — hand-dyed towels, tambourine bells, light bulbs — return in a more transitory state. I am not simply describing variation here, like the nearly 100 gray scale dyed and reassembled washcloths in Stills (2009-10), snaking along the gallery walls and terminating in a pure-black coda. Rather, note the simple intervention of Lee’s vernacular objet: the towel hanging against a monochrome backdrop. In Towel panel corner (yellow, lavender) (2010), the backdrop is a three-dimensional, 90-degree angle, with the towel hanging from its inside corner. Lee’s stitched-together towels, once resembling Brice Marden’s early Minimalist style, hang here as a triple-negative framework, their interiors incised. Dyed and stitched-together towels slide over a project in his film 35mm Towels (black, gray, green, blue, yellow) (2010), to an unremitting shower-like soundtrack. While Lee’s work tends to be compared to modern-American legends Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns (the encoded sexuality and use of found materials in genre-defying art), I believe his residency in Marfa adds a Donald Judd angle to this exhibition. In a side gallery, Lee’s array of painted wood podiums, augmented by heart-shaped holes, towels and other media, bears a Judd-style meditative quality. The key here is the exacting interaction between towel and podium. The simplest gesture, specifically Washcloth podium (2010), with its four corners drooping into the podium’s holes like a wilting flower, personifies a strong mono-no-aware. I found this feeling amplified when revisiting the rest of Lee’s exhibition.

Brian Fee

Brian Fee. Brian Fee talks art by day, sees Brooklyn bands by night, and speaks Japanese during in-between hours. His alter ego is feeslist.blogspot.com, which includes a weekly rundown of only the dopest NY-based art/film/music events. » See other writings

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