Paper world at Peng

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I ran in to Peng Gallery Saturday to see the works on paper show. One of the four artists in the group exhibit, Tattfoo Tan, had been emailing me about his work in the Peng show and about his own gallery in Staten Island, Tattfoo Gallery. The artist and his gallery were profiled recently in the New York Sun.

Even though Saturday was the last official day of the Peng exhibit, I wanted to check it out as a preview of Tan’s upcoming solo with the gallery in March. I also wanted to see what Dennis Lo, also in the show ( along with Hsin-Hsi Chen and Susan Main) was up to. Lo is an artist whose work I’d seen before at Peng. Two years ago Lo was showing work that was heavily scroll-based (with waterfall and cloud imagery) but I’d seen some cartoons of his in the City Hall “Comix” exhibit and was intrigued by this leap to Western imagery.

Like I said, it was the last official day to see the show, but happily — because it’s a good exhibit — the show’s been extended through Dec. 11, according to gallery owner Jason Peng, who said he will have gallery hours on the next two weekends, Friday, Dec. 3 and Saturday, Dec. 4 and Friday, Dec. 10 and Saturday, Dec. 11. Gallery hours are on the Peng website. It doesn’t hurt to call ahead. (215) 629-5889.

Anyway, Tan, 30, makes work that is a mix of east and west (top image is “Scroll of Eternity B” and next is detail from the “Just Shoot Me” series, a grid of eight collage works). The scrolls are lovely build-ups of ink, what looks like gold paint and glitter. They evoke pretty explosions, and I kept thinking of Cai Guo-Quiang’s fireworks pieces when I saw them. The “Shoot Me” series is also beautiful explosions but with a more urban contemporary undercurrent — the collages are made in part from used paper targets from an indoor firing range.

Hsin-Hsi Chen, an artist from Washington, D.C. according to Peng, draws minimalist constructions in pencil on paper that evoke mazes of architecture and call to mind M. C. Escher and Giorgio DiChirico. The drawings portray houses, alleyways and urban space in de-populated, and surreal elongations of space and shadow. Her “Essence of Void,” (shown) with its cut-out middle and wiggly edges and trompe l’oeil description of space is playful and a little lonely as well.

Chen is also showing a group of ten small paper constructions from the “Flowing Pneuma” series. The constructions, each of which has an odd, anti-house shape, show a house or part of a house or architectural space. The constructions are all angles and the drawings become angles within angles. Where the construction bends a corner one way, the drawing cuts the other way. Very nice yin/yang conversation between the drawing and the support. The pieces remind me of chunks of rock — asteroids — but with their heavily worked surface texture they evoke skin or fur. They’re definite personalities. (shown is detail)

Dennis Lo’s poster-like works, the largest in the exhibit, are great graphic mish-mashes of imagery, words and repeat design motifs. Lo seems to be riffing on contemporary society and you feel that he’s one with it and outside it looking in at the same time. His piece, “The Dancer” (shown) is a great mixture of a Philly construction worker type (great big boots on this guy) who is dancing to some unheard music, with is 25 arms and 15 legs fanning out around him like those of an Indian god. Lo’s poster-like works, which have collage elements from newspapers and magazines, have a kind of no holds barred art-making without editing in them and for all their seeming chaos they have great intuitive clarity about life.

Susan Main, also from Washington, D.C., is the most nuanced and tactile of the artists in the show. Her abstract, encaustic pieces, which trap words, lines and smudges beneath gorgeous, milky wax surfaces, are about relationships and human interaction. The press material says she begins with text, repeated over and over. That may be, but mostly the text is buried, erased, doubled back on and altered so that the words are non-words. Yet the pieces are all about the delicate dance between people and the deep layers of meaning hidden beneath what’s really said. (image is “Concealment sounds like…”)

I recommend this exhibit for its variety of voices singing in both Western and Eastern keys. Also, for what could be considered a black and white exhibit, the artists got a lot of grey, pink, gold and other colors in the works which is interesting. This will be Peng’s last exhibit until March when it reopens with a solo of Tan’s work.

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