First Friday best

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All right, so I didn’t see everything at First Friday, so this may be a little unfair, but I saw one perfect thing that topped seeing everything, and if you have time for only one show this month, you have to pry yourself out of the house and see this one–“Ed Bing Lee @ 70” at the Works Gallery.

The 70 is Lee’s age, which helps account for the accomplishment and extraordinary craftsmanship. But the work is also young and exuberant and full of wit and creativity–things there’s no accounting for because they are gifts.

Lee’s work has Pop art (see Vessels: “Coke” above) and pop culture, minimalist grids, art-historical quotes and appropriations, basketry and sculpture–all compressed and reimagined via thousands of colored-thread knots.

The pieces are tiny–4-inch “vessels” and 3-inch orchids, for example (shown right Paphiopedilum: “Sandra Bay”). Even the largest pieces, fan-shaped quotes from famous paintings–like “Dejeuner sur l’Herbe” paired with a relatively large, Pop-style hot dog with a voluptous mustard squiggle (that brings to mind Wayne Thiebaud and Roy Lichtenstein), for example–are compressed into a folding-fan-sized space.

Half-hitch knots are the basic macrame knot, said Lee at his opening. But the knots are hidden in the back, so what shows looks like a stitch, making some of the flat products resemble needlepoint at first blush. But the sculptural shapes, parts of which he sews together–as in the Earthcrust and Rocks series (shown left Earthcrust: “Limonite”) or the orchids–use the knots’ ability to turn a corner.

One of the earthcrust pieces takes 200 hours to produce, Lee said, and the only thing he uses to stabilize the material as he works are a piece of board and a Bull Dog Clip–sometimes several Bull Dog Clips, he adds.

Lee began this work 25 years ago, but he’s still pushing the edges of the envelope (shown below right Vessels: “Delta” and “Epsilon”).

I was at this show with three others with disparate tastes, and the work of Ed Bing Lee had us all darting from object to object, calling to one another to take a look.

Lee has some local connections, including teaching fiber for 10 years at what is now the University of the Arts. Don’t miss his work as it passes through town again.

And while you’re at the Works, check out the tiny teapots, some shown on the Works web page, and Deb Fleck-Stabley’s clay statue with its face mug ancestry (shown left).

And upstairs at Snyderman, toward the back amongst the assortment of works from artists the gallery carries, the exuberant glass objects by Einar and Jamex de la Torre — their “Kidney Bean Pot,” my fave, was hidden in a dark corner. My image was so bad, even I couldn’t bear to run it, but you can get a sense of their work at Snyderman’s home page. Click on artists and de la Torre.

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