By Tom McGrath
Shoshana Wayne Gallery presents a solo exhibition of
Chie Fueki’s new paintings today, April 13 through May 25. This is
Fueki’s fourth show with the gallery.
A cursory glance at Fueki’s new exhibition reveals an
artist known for her glam surfaces, outré fastidious rendering, decalcomania
cal motifs, and pop-folk iconography at her most visually superlative.
But don’t let Fueki’s characteristically seductive
optics camouflage their true content: a lingering gaze over Fueki’s exhibition
as a whole reveals something more peculiar woven throughout the counter-veiling
spectacle, a deeper enigma at the heart of what lies “all on the surface.”
A series of paintings on panels of relatively equal
dimensions surround the viewer lining the walls around the circumference of the
gallery. Each panel bears the likeness of the same woman, wearing the same hat,
facing the same direction in a circuit broken only by her symmetrically
mirrored image in a couple of calculated irregularities. The subject of Fueki's
portraits seems to fix her gaze elsewhere at the very insistence that she is
everywhere at once.
Fueki’s work has always dabbled in the elliptical
parallelism between high renaissance art, 80‘s scroll screen computer game
graphics, art nouveau naturalism, early modern orphism in painting and fashion,
Japanese folklore and Shinto animism; the rediscovery of the radical
psychedelic tropicalismo of her childhood spent in 70’s Brazil, and the flat
fixations of Anime culture. The complex curvature of her figuration seems to
combine the lyrical subtlety and baroque trajectory of Bezier curves, with
older forms of vector graphics and Euclidian geometries, analogously present in
non-albertian non-western representations of space such as the Edo period
woodblock prints or Hiroshige.
The surfaces in each painting are layered with painted
paper and collaged onto the surfaces, which are painted on again. The flower
motif repeated in several works are sometimes hand painted, sometimes silk
screen collaged. Fueki’s pattern and decoration is steeped in codes of feminism
and analogous reversals of normative identity roles through the optical
exchange of figure and ground, origin and motif.
Fueki’s repetition and sequencing places her in a
dialogue within a certain pitting of seriality against the narrative sequence
of the image. Her repetition plays in the culture of the copy; where the
contradiction between the procedural and the intuitive is the narrative foil to
the larger questions of image ownership and dissemination; franchise remakes,
networks, new manners, friendships and social atomization. More importantly, as
a child of third culture experience, (having grown up in Brazil to Japanese
parents, relocating to New York in the 90’s), Fueki’s imagery is an issue of
both speculative identity and questionable ownership.
Assuming that Fueki’s portrait is an assemblage of
different identities and likenesses, how do we as viewers know from whence she
came? Certain clues refer back to Fueki’s stylistic synthesis of Tropicalia and
super flat aesthetics. The hat of Fueki’s protagonist bears uncanny resemblance
to that of a famous Brazilian pop singer, Nara Leão, on the cover of her album
“dez anos depois”, and on the cover of the classic Tropicalia record “Bread and
Circuses” (where she appears in a photo held by Caetano Veloso). She looks a
little like an Echo Park folkie, a little like Carmen Sandiego. But who is she
Each of Fueki’s serially similar canvases seems to
contain elements of a structural nature breaking through the dense
figure-grounding of pattern- literally, silhouettes of various flora transposed
through a dense network of grids and lattices. Fueki’s other botanical schema evoke the textile and wallpaper designs
of William Morris. But Fueki is no
anti-modern child of nature. As in her previous work, the natural is rendered
with such technical precision as to seem “technological” in a way that evokes
early 3-d modeling, computer graphics and isometric architectures leaping out
of their diagrammatic 2-dimensionality.
Like any work of art operation, we can assume that our
understanding of even the most pictorial and decorous image is one of
apophasis: what’s at stake is a combination of what elements are visibly
present, with those issues rendered conspicuously absent. In other words, Chie Fueki’s paintings,
camouflaged in botanical tropicalia and diagrammed between perspectival
systems, aren’t about the glancing circuit of her mysterious protagonist, they
are about the eye of the beholder.
Shoshana Wayne Gallery is located at 2525 Michigan Ave.
B1 (Bergamot Station), Santa Monica.
For more information, call 310.453.7535 or visit www.shoshanawayne.com.
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