Harper’s is pleased to announce two exhibitions opening in East Hampton on Saturday, August 19. The front gallery will feature works by artists Hyegyeong Choi, Michele Fletcher, Ji Woo Kim, Anastasia Komar, Cece Philips, Lumin Wakoa, and Chloe West across a group exhibition titled Poetics of Falsification. In the rear gallery, Brooklyn-based painter Yesiyu Zhao will present Wanderers, which includes a collection of new oil paintings and sculptures for his debut solo exhibition with Harper’s. Both exhibitions open on Saturday, August 19, 6–8pm, with a joint reception attended by the artists.
Poetics of Falsification features seven female artists who trouble the boundaries of classification through the practice of fabrication. Drawing from the late painter Elaine de Kooning’s critique of feminist art history, the artists featured in this exhibition defy identitarian and medium-specific categorization. As de Kooning noted, “to be put in any category not defined by one’s work is to be falsified.” The artists throughout Poetics of Falsification refuse to be governed by the doctrines of their medium or the assumptions of their gender. These artists devise their own social and aesthetic realities instead, using a diverse range of visual languages.
Michele Fletcher, for example, complicates feminine expression through her alluring and at times, enigmatic abstractions of flowers. Meanwhile, the women illustrated in Hyegyeong Choi’s lush paintings flaunt divergent body types as they saunter through whimsical landscapes. Artists like Anastasia Komar reject the human body altogether: sculptural elements composed of glass polymer resemble amphibious tails and exoskeletons, embellishing iridescent color field paintings. Together, whether it be through the performance of womanhood, the demolishing of beauty standards, or the forging of new kinds of living beings altogether, the artists that comprise Poetics of Falsification distort the rigidity of historical taxonomies and uncover the latent power that resides in disorder. In doing so, they threaten externally imposed narratives and demand a self-determined existence.
This tension between personal agency and societally determined fate persists in Yesiyu Zhao’s Wanderers. The exhibition is a meditation on the state of exile. Historically, the term implies coercive banishment: those who are relegated to social expulsion tend to be denied control of their fate. Zhao, however, asks us to consider what it could mean for one to reclaim this feared lifestyle. How can we divorce the position of exile from the language of dispossession? How might we uncover the unfettered potential that the condition of fugitivity could invite?
The protagonists of Zhao’s Wanderers can be understood as nomads. They journey through byzantine landscapes in pursuit of their curiosity: for Zhao, such exploration is not about reaching a particular destination, but in the voyage itself. In many cases, these anthropomorphic characters camouflage with their environments, becoming one with the sweltering deserts and rousing waters they call home.
This enmeshment with nature can be found in works like Ride the Wind, Brave the Waves (乘风破浪). Here, feminine figures aboard a ship part a turbulent sea as they leap fearlessly into magnificent waves. These characters, dressed in razor-sharp high heels, effortlessly ascend poles, gesturing at the fortitude of women in the face of distress. A cool palette composed of blues, violets, and flecks of rich yellow makes for a balanced, yet, lively composition throughout. Together, these oceanic hues drift from the background and through the foreground. The aesthetic choice renders the figures a part of the architecture of the ship itself: collectively, the bevy of climbing subjects feel like spirits, electrifying the surrounding seascape.
Zhao opts for warmer shades in Slumber Party in the Sunflower Field. Golden, serpentine brushstrokes weave together mountains and hands, both reaching toward the sky in blinding daylight. The artist’s steamy color selections and geographic expressions capture the arid heat of the Chinese city, Dunhuang. This Northwestern region borders the Gobi Desert and is famously home to the historic Mogao cave paintings that inform Zhao’s pastel-driven tones and narrative mark-making. Dotted with palm trees and submerged in valleys of surreal pigment, the work is displayed on an obtuse canvas that appears to unravel at the edges, recalling Chinese scroll painting.
Zhao also remarks on the traditional practice of scroll painting across his new ceramic sculptures, which incorporate lampshades made from rice paper that he adorns with intricate watercolor paintings. The works, installed on pedestals at the center of the gallery, will take the form of vessels that visually conjure limbs, boats, and other instruments that facilitate travel. Ultimately, this allusion to transit crystallizes the exhibition’s foundational tenet: across Wanderers, Zhao’s subjects choose exile—they adopt an itinerant life of uncertainty—to this end, Zhao reveals the enlightening, divine, and at times humorous odyssey that such an existence can provoke.
—Written by Daniella Brito