“LIFE & DEATH II”: This work by Kelly Wang is part of “Between Heartlands / Kelly Wang,” on display at the [email protected] gallery at the Princeton University Art Museum on Nassau Street through February 27.
New York artist Kelly Wang (b. 1992) combines ancient and contemporary influences to create multimedia works that resonate with elements of cultural identity and personal grief. She creates what she calls landscapes of the heart – landscapes of the heart – that revolve around places, people or events with which she has a deep affinity. “Between Heartlands/Kelly Wang” features 32 works of art from the past six years, including recent acquisitions from the Princeton University Art Museum‘s own collections, that challenge the way we think about heritage and our perception of the world around us. . Walking a tightrope between past and future, East and West, Wang pushes the boundaries of calligraphy, painting and sculpture in new ways while confronting prejudice, life and death.
“Between Heartlands / Kelly Wang” is curated by Cary Y. Liu, Nancy and Peter Lee Curator of Asian Art at the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibit is on view at the Art @ Bainbridge Museum Contemporary Gallery in downtown Princeton through February 27.
“Housed in the historic Bainbridge House, Kelly Wang’s innovative work connecting eras, cultures and techniques is beautifully crafted in a way that invites each of us to consider memory, the past, the need for refuge and, ultimately, to awaken a sense of our shared humanity,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director.
The exhibition opens with a group of cosmetic compacts, entitled Thank you for reminding me of my rich cultural past (2021), which documents slurs from Wang’s school days to the present day, when COVID-19 sparked a surge in anti-Asian hatred. Women use mirrored pacts to look at themselves, but Wang’s intervention of burnt-paper words covering the mirrors makes visible what some others may see, think, and hate.
The following works play on Chinese calligraphy and landscape painting traditions but present them in an unfamiliar way. In Calligraphic abstraction (2020), each Chinese character, an empty shape burned into the paper using incense, is legible, but the assembled text is unreadable and can be better understood by the title Calligraphic abstraction. Calligraphy is also incorporated into Wang’s landscapes, including Reclusive Studio (2018), in which she responds to the long tradition of blue-green landscape painting in China by experimenting with brush-applied ink on paper which is then immersed under layers of pigment-infused resin that she manipulates in torch. The resin turns into a durable substance, creating an almost transparent depth in which the pigments seem to flow.
The sense of security and belonging that Wang achieved in his work was shattered in the spring of 2020 with the outbreak of COVID-19 which resulted in the death of his father. In his series Microcosms of mourning (2021), the artist twists small pieces of newspaper that she kept during her father’s hospitalization and fixes them on a canvas. With the twisted paper, Wang creates rock images of Chinese scholars (microcosms of immortal realms), still life representations of utilitarian threads reminiscent of cursive calligraphy, and a topographic map titled New York (Microcosm 6) (2021) – the place of his grief and loss.
A meeting with the artists will take place on January 29 from 1 to 4 p.m. at [email protected] A live conversation between Wang and artist Zhang Hongtu will take place virtually on February 17 at 5:30 p.m., and the artist will discuss his techniques, materials, and tools in a virtual discussion and demonstration on February 24 at 5:30 p.m.
[email protected] is located in downtown Princeton at 158 Nassau Street. Hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free entry. For more information, visit artmuseum.princeton.edu.