Jacque Liu’s show Milk Drunk, currently up at Pentimenti gallery, is titled after a comment about the artist’s newborn son made by a nurse. True to this theme, the works on display evoke an amorphous, rich, pre-lingual state of consciousness.
Liu’s works in this show include folded drawings somewhat reminiscent of the work of Agnes Martin, mylar constructions, and object installations. The use of translucent mylar in drawings and constructions adds to the ephemeral nature of Liu’s work, giving pieces a soft aura and altering and cloaking of more traditional colors.
Likewise, folds and buttons on the mylar works imply specific tensions in pieces, whereas the folds and buttons are clearly not connected to anything at all. Ultimately they add to the ambiguity of Liu’s works, which could be presenting the ghostly impression or memory of a disembodied tension that can be explored and interpreted in almost any direction at all.
The objects in Liu’s show, including boards of wood, legs of a chair, and a partial table that blends into the wall, likewise give us only part of the story. Liu has said that memory is an important part of his work and these pieces could perhaps be seen as physical representations of memories.
Abstract explosions of colored ink are juxtaposed with fantastical landscapes in Brooklyn-based artist Shane McAdams’ “synthetic landscapes,” also on display at Pentimenti in a show titled Down and Out the Rabbit Hole.
In his first outing in Philadelphia, McAdams presents an array of landscapes either obscured or enhanced by naturalistic patterns and abstract, streaked ballpoint-pen ink compositions. Here, McAdams is incorporating the style from his earlier series of “pen blow” paintings into fantastical landscapes. The technique is one in which he literally blows the ink out of ballpoint pen cartridges to get a paint-like effect which is enhanced by exposing the ink to UV rays and heat.
McAdams describes a traditional landscape painting as “a vertical illusion that one peers through.” In contrast, his work synthesizes elements into layers complementing one another, creating images grander and more real than a realistic depiction of nature could be.
The presentation at Pentimenti leaves something to be desired, as McAdams’ pieces don’t quite fill the large gallery space they have been allotted, and unfortunately, some of Liu’s mylar constructions look like they are in less than perfect condition, with a few corners visibly sagging on the gallery wall.
But the contrasting work of the artists is enjoyable, as both have divergent perspectives on the abstraction of their internal landscape. While McAdams focuses on grand images of nature seen through the lens of his imagination, Liu treats almost exclusively of intimate, almost miniature moments and memories. Both artists likewise deal in primary colors and simplistic or traditional compositions to create works that resonate with meaning and complexity.
There is no overt connection between the two shows and both artists are working deeply within a very personal language and aesthetic, so the viewer’s experience depends on what they bring to the table.
Milk Drunk and Down and Out the Rabbit Hole will be up at Pentimenti Gallery, at 145 North Second Street in Old City, through June 30.