Angie Seykora and Ying Zhu “join forces” in Lines Forming, another of Darger HQ’s successful two person exhibits that highlights a local and non-local artist working in close collaboration.
Seykora is well known in Omaha and has shown both nationally and internationally. Her method of labor-intensive assemblage results in sculptures and installations that demand reflection and incite discovery. She teaches sculpture at Creighton University and is involved in several community- based youth educational and mentoring programs.
Ying Zhu was born and raised in China, received her MFA from University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and is a former resident at the Bemis Project. Her work is mostly site-specific, and her ideas explore the confluence of culture and identity. Zhu’s art is rooted in the understanding of self; spatially, culturally, and linguistically. She currently resides in Washington DC.
Whether working individually or in collaboration, Lines Forming references two Japanese interconnected influences known as Wabi-sabi and Kintsugi. The perception of aesthetic value in basic, natural, and sometime unpleasant things, the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi, encourages appreciation of the imperfect and the incomplete.
An outgrowth of this world-view is the practice of Kintsugi, the method of repairing pottery with obvious, but aesthetic, lacquer and gold “welds.” Repairing broken things, proclaims the breakage as a part of the life of the piece, to be embraced, and encourages continued use of the item.
Lines Forming is an effective illustration of these ideas. The exhibit consists of about six solo works and two collaborative pieces. If you haven’t been to this Gallery, it is a small space, but exhibits are usually comfortable and accessible; the exception being opening nights, when the place is brimming.
This display, within a space not much bigger than two garage bays and painted entirely white (floor, too,) at first seems a bit spare, but the extra white space surrounding the art makes the pieces appear to float, and directs the viewers attention to the concise details of each work.
Starting with the solo efforts, Seykora’s simple, but oddly captivating, “Slough. ” This straightforward grid of steel forms a cage-like enclosure, made less ominous by the addition of pink fuzz wrapped around what should be cold steel bars.
Reminiscent of cheap, flocked Christmas trees, or a tawdry, pink boa, it is right in line with Seykora’s attention to detail, and her candid and minimalist oeuvre. The adjacent piece, “Bristle,” is a standard, institutional-green sweeping mop head, seemingly suspended and pressed to the wall by clear plastic dowels almost invisible against the white walls and floor.
Some absent-minded janitor misplaced a favorite tool; until closer inspection reveals timid little tufts of intensely colored hairs secreted among the green yarns of the mop head.
Zhu’s solo works start with a pair of framed pieces, also available for purchase separately. The two work together well, but are quite different graphically. “Avocado” takes a literal page from the Kintsugi craft. It is a real avocado sprout; roots, cotyledon, stem, dehydrated semblance of a leaf, all encased in gold leaf, save for the roots, a dark tangle of lifeless capillaries.
At some posthumous point, the artist broke the stem, and in keeping with the Kintsugi philosophy, Zhu mounted the plant with a wide gap at the break, not avoiding or hiding, but celebrating the accident. She has painstakingly darkened the deckled edge of the background paper with ink; a nod possibly to the sinewy tangles of the roots, and as a segue to its mate.
“Nine,” the paired work, veers from the organic nature of the other with a bold, hard-edged, rectangular prism of thin black tape on a similar deckled page. Joining the two opposing corners of the prism are two fine strands of gold thread, woven between finely cut tabs of the paper. The segue may have benefitted, however, from a darkening of its deckled edges, thereby more clearly joining the two pieces.
Zhu embraces the aesthetics of wear, gilding formerly living plants, cultivating that important part of life; its death. “Jasper,” a gilded bonsai Juniper, once vital, becomes vital again in death as a simple, aesthetic reminder of life’s limit.
Similar, but more incidental, are “Joshua Tree,” a single, brass wire protruding from the wall, re-curving to a seed pod terminus, coated in gold leaf; and “Coral,” two pieces of once living rock, precariously balanced on similar brass wire supports. Zhu reminds us of the former life in these rocks by carefully marking several of the miniscule pockets that used to house the resident polyps.
The final two pieces are the two collaborations. “+”, an austere, black, steel ring, looking not unlike it may have had an equestrian use in a previous life. The iron ring is painted black and brightly colored hairs have been added to an armature that protrudes from the side of the ring. Continuing the equestrian theme, fibers have been added, reminders maybe of a roached mane, the practice of cutting a horses mane crew-cut short.
The title work, “Lines Forming,” consists of a bundle of tangled steel hooks connected to golden yellow threads; a confused mess of hard and spiky knotted-ness, each metal spike an infantile mark, reaching toward the sky in a Sisyphean endeavor to follow the golden guides to form their apotheosis, becoming a mature line. The weight of the steel bundle forever holds them down, but a few getting a bit higher on the track, as if maybe, just maybe there is a chance of reaching their goal.
Lines Forming is a contemporary display of work, a nod to minimalism; subtractive, derivative, quiet, calming, but hardly devoid of emotion or empathy as was the goal of the minimalists of the 1960’s.
Seykora’s non sequitur applications and craft, and Zhu’s detailed attentions to the aesthetics of transience and imperfection highlight the works, and both artists have a keen eye for proportion and composition.
In repurposing used and discarded materials, the artists recognize the aesthetics in the outcasts, and reincarnate the stuff and things of life, the underlying doctrine of Wabi-sabi, and the practice of Kintsugi. This is the first meeting for these two artists; a sparse, but strong showing of both their individual talents and their collaborative success.
Lines Forming runs through January 7th, 2018 at Darger HQ, 1804 Vinton St. For more details and gallery hours go to dargerhq.org.