When it comes to painting, evoking the elements calls for elemental solutions. In three beautiful exhibitions in Chelsea right now, contemporary artists balance a fascination with water, clouds, and ethereal, billowing forms with audacious experimental attitudes toward traditional materials. Each body of work manifests a heightened consciousness of paint's formal properties that are appropriate to what it is depicting, in terms of liquidity or brittleness, fluency or arrest.
To what degree does an artist's heritage inform his work? It is a particularly American question, since, no matter how deep our roots in this soil may dig, all of us have, to some degree, a multiple identity. But so what? Shouldn't an American artist be considered an artist foremost, an American as a second thought, and a hyphenated identity as an afterthought?
I like the title of the Asia Society's latest, and possibly best, foray into contemporary art. "One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now" borrows a familiar colloquialism for go-it-alone ingenuity and persistence under pressure, not bad qualities for a young artist. The phrase is also the title of the 1978 punk standard by Blondie, and thus linked to a bouncy rant that Deborah Harry, the group's slinky lead singer, delivered with a rebellious feminist snarl.
"SYMBIOLAND," the title of Jiha Moon's exhibition at the Curator's Office, pretty much says it all. Suggesting not just the term symbiosis, which describes an interdependent relationship between two often disparate entities, but a rough fusion of the words "symbol" and "land," the name neatly sums up several of the artist's abiding interests.
Just a few days after winning the $10,000 Trawick Prize, painter Jiha Moon triumphed again with the opening of her solo show at Curator's Office last weekend. Moon's detailed ink-and-acrylic paintings on rice paper evoke fantasy worlds, ancient scroll painting and the "Hello Kitty" aisle. Lessons learned during the artist's studies in her native Korea gave her the brushwork of a skilled miniaturist. Now living in Annandale, she's supplemented her homeland's visual vocabulary with images from her adopted culture. Whether or not cute rainbows and tiny fire-breathing dragons co-exist on the same frame, every picture rewards close looking.