ALL THE DISTANT PLACES
April 11- May 16, 2020
Halsey McKay Gallery
79 Newtown Lane
East Hampton, New York
Falling Rabbit, 2020. Wool on wood, 28 x 22 inches (71.1 x 55.9 cm)
Falling Rabbit, 2020 (Detail)
I10E, 2020. Wool on wood, 67 x 50 inches (170.2 x 127 cm)
I10E, 2020 (Detail)
Hold On Tight To Your Balloon, 2020. Wool on wood, 48 x 48 inches (121.9 x 121.9 cm)
Hold On Tight To Your Balloon, 2020
Land of Cheek, 2020. Wool on wood, 32 x 44 inches (81.3 x 111.8 cm)
Land of Cheek, 2020 (Detail)
Willow, 2020. Wool on wood, 32 x 30 inches (81.3 x 76.2 cm)
Willow, 2020 (Detail)
All images courtesy of Miranda Fengyuan Zhang and Halsey McKay Gallery
All the distant places in Miranda Fengyuan Zhang’s work
I have been writing press releases for exhibitions for five years, every month, for at least three shows per month, and this is the first time that I’m writing locked up in a quarantine flooded with wine, 70% alcohol gel and Korean novels, introduced to me by Miranda Zhang at the beginning of this year in New York. These factors combined do not allow me to write an impersonal text, but it is not an unnecessary text for the approach to Zhang’s embryonic but mature work.
It is from the end of the 8th century BC, one of the first references for knitting. It is found in Homer’s Odyssey. The character Penélope sees her husband Ulysses being called to fight in the Trojan War. The years passed, and there was no news of Ulysses. Penelope’s father presses her to get married again. She wants to wait for her husband to return. It establishes the condition that the remarriage will only happen after she finishes knitting a shroud for Laerte, father of Ulysses. The night dismantles the woven, in the eyes of all, and thus the work never ends.
The most amusing point about doing this research is knowing that Zhang is, by far, not the first young contemporary artist to bring this technique, nor will it be the last. I imagine that all the stories surrounding the method, only serve as a subject to have in small talks and forget about later on. The artist turns her hands on the technique, carrying the curiosity of a painter, looks for colors and weights to create an image above language. It is more about the act than the history behind it.
The formats and terminations on the painting chassis suggest a progressive and questioning mood interested in the possible relationships between form, content, and definitions regarding what we understand as handicrafts and the inadequately so-called “high art.”
The artist creates images that walk the tightrope of figuration, but fall purposefully into abstraction, these same images evoke multiple chromatic references, from a hibiscus tea to an industrial red, to the gray of cotton farms in the winter.
The way everything is put in a painting format makes me think of how many hooks we have in common, coming from different, distant places, being connected by Instagram, friends or enemies, Korean soap operas, or a globally dangerous virus. Miranda’s work is about the union of absurdly different colors, massive forms, and gaseous ones. It is about the passage from the whole drama to the sobriety of structure, it is about tradition and new possibilities for the same culture. It is about an endless exercise of blending history and desire, like Penélope of Homero.
I wish I could be looking at one of these works in Miranda’s studio in Little Italy right now, but I’m in São Paulo, looking at them virtually and thinking that what art unites, not even time or a long and deadly flight can separate.
text by Matheus Yehudi