Chenhung Chen & Echo Lew: Universal Parallels
Artists Echo Lew and Chenhung Chen will exhibit their new and recent work together this Fall, but in a real sense, they’ve been exploring overlapping territories for a long time already. In their diversity of mediums but confluence of ideas, and in their methodologies for engagement with the energetic forces of the universe, Chen and Lew each create images and objects that speak to both durably tangible materials and dynamic fleeting forces.
As Lew makes work resembling line-drawing made by capturing the hairs that fall from his head each morning, and Chen weaves and crochets open-source tapestries made from repurposed electrical cords and industrial wires, both use unconventional materials in specific ways that are rich with allegory and metaphor on multiple levels. Both artists manipulate or at least recontextualize their materials such that they become unrecognizable to a degree, while also remaining stubbornly their original selves -- representing in this way the transformative, humanistic power of art and art-making.
Both artists cite a meditative, almost ritualistic aspect to their work; and at the same time both adhere laws of nature such as gravity, fractal patterns, passing time, and energy transference. While Chen uses electrical conduits as symbols for our Chi, Lew uses his own hair as the actual artifact of human life. Both create fully realized works with unique relationships to drawing, calligraphy, weaving, bas relief, and sculpture. As for their eccentric materials, both artists use found and often discarded or more to the point orphaned, deracinated things -- lost hair, random power cables -- and offer them a fresh start, reinvention in a new context, with a new purpose, while also staying as what they are.
Lew’s forms require the action of chance and gravity to generate the sinuous, serpentine lines of his mixed media “drawings.” He never knew how much or little hair there would be as he set about producing a work every day for a full year; and in this way the work is also about the passing of time, mortality, and permanence. Chen’s process is labor-intensive and almost mechanical in its repetitions, as she sources, sorts, arrays, composes, and finally painstakingly executes her robins-nest sculptural weavings for floor and wall from stockpiles of abandoned power and computer cords. Her objects are almost performative, as one cannot help but imagine the process of their making.
In each presentation and in the dialog between them, the metaphors for communication, mortality, and obsolescence are potent; the resonances between these well paired bodies of work are both unexpected and apparent; and the deeper meaning of the story is perhaps art’s alchemical power to elevate anything to the service of a beautiful idea.
-- Shana Nys Dambrot
Los Angeles 2019