Xinan Helen Ran et al. at Essex Flowers Gallery / New York

Xinan Helen Ran et al.: Crumbs and Lather

March 15th to April 14th, 2024

Essex Flowers Gallery
19 Monroe St, NY 10002
All photo credits go to Tsubasa Berg

In the depths of the sea, during the mating of anglerfish, the male– mere centimeters in size– seeks out his significantly larger female counterpart. He bites onto her belly, and eventually their tissues fuse; the male assimilates into the female's bloodstream as they become permanently united in the vast ocean depths. Marine biologists believe this extraordinary symbiosis is driven by the challenge of encountering one's own kind in the remote oceanic expanses.


Xinan Ran’s second exhibition at Essex Flowers Gallery, titled "Crumbs and Lather," draws inspiration from this moment of deep-sea bonding and uses it as a quaint metaphor to mirror the frugal practice of joining a nearly finished sliver of soap with a new bar– a common household act that conserves the smaller piece and prolongs the utility of the soap. This act of merging, familiar to many, harks back to a more challenging era when thriftiness was a daily necessity.


“Crumbs and Lather” delves into these acts of “cleansing”, bringing to light the often overlooked “crumbs” of daily routine– the laundering of stains, the wiping away of handprints, and the collection, melting, and display of used soap pieces by various individuals. The exhibition aims to illuminate the collective imprints we leave on unseen layers of our urban interactions, emphasizing this shared act of mark-making in our collective presence.


Participating soap contributors: Tsubasa Berg, Noémie Jennifer Bonnet, Miguel Alejandro Castillo, Jamie Chan, Cynthia Chen, Patrick Costello, Maria Jose García Estevez, Kate Fry, Kathleen Granados, Kristen Heritage, Patrick Mohundro, Camilla Padgitt-Coles, Fangyu Liu, Xiran Luo, Tyrel Stokes, Micaela Varela, Jerome Wang, Martha Wilson, Queenie Wong, Marissa Wu, Amos Yeung, Aman Zaeghum and April Zhu.


Xinan Ran received her MFA from Hunter College (2022), and BFA from Pratt Institute (2017). Ranked “Highbrow and Brilliant” by the New York Magazine Matrix, Xinan is a 2024 More Art Commission Artist, a 2024 New York State Council on the Arts grant recipient, was a mentee in New York Foundation for the Arts’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program (2023), a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Arts Center resident (2022), and an Ox-Bow Summer Fellow (2016). Apart from her studio practice, Xinan is an art educator, an art administrator and an aspirational set designer for new theaters.