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2023

In this work the Proxy gallery is both the container and also part of Object #2, since it, too, is made of natural material, wood, just like the ceramic and rope of Object #2. In her work, Liang Zhang emphasizes formal qualities: the hard and the soft, the calculated and the free form, the purchased and carefully tied rope and the hand-made clay object. The clay is Calico clay, looking and feeling like concrete, but in a light brown color. 

 The object Object #2 seems to have an affinity with the Mono-ha art movement in Japan and Korea of the late 1960s and early 70s that insisted on the primal properties of matter and the importance of labor, as opposed to the primacy of ideas emphasized in conceptual art at the time.

For Zhang, the linking, twining and intertwining play a big role both in the construction of the piece and in their symbolic social dimension: like many abstract works, it also claims to speak of the society we live in. We are bound and bonded and made stronger by these connections. In her work Zhang often uses two elements, both juxtaposing and connecting them. You need to have difference in order to connect, not merge into one. The two elements are never combined to form a single harmonious entity, and that sense of connected separateness without fusion is important in the work of Zhang. For her, it is tension and friction that create relationship. While rope also binds and ties, it is different from, say, metal chain.

A little off center of the square ceramic mass is a mysterious rectangular “hole,” an absence defined by its edges, perhaps the letter “I” as in “I, myself” or perhaps a window if we read Object #2 as a wall in an architectural sense.

Liang Zhang

Opening reception Friday October 27, 4-6 pm during TRYST, an international art fair for artist-run-spaces

Mirena Kim’s fired ceramic sculpture fits snugly in the Proxy Gallery. The white cube is not a miniature gallery but a space on its own terms: The object fills it almost completely. Kim sought to deal with the space by addressing every single inch; thus there are areas of the sculpture blocked from viewing. Spaces, cells, rooms, voids. You are aware that some areas are blocked from view, because of
the walls. Walls are here understood as both the “walls” of the gallery and the “walls” of the represented “building.”
 
There are also psychological dimensions--a quest for identity, sculpting the body. It is reasonable to understand that the usual ways of addressing the body have been taken away. The title itself performs a two-fold function: it anthropomorphizes the sculpture that is now talking in the first person, worrying that it may not fit into its container, and it also speaks of Kim’s complex relationship to identity, racial and gender. Kim’s solution is to turn to abstraction, which, paradoxically, appears to have the form of a building. To the question of whether this is an abstraction or a representation, the work answers “both”: It looks like a building whose interior is inaccessible, in the same way that the interior of the body or of the unconscious is inaccessible. That frontality, that inaccessibility are the refusals—not denials—through which the artist seeks to define her voice.

​The color yellow figures strongly in this installation. According to Kim, it is the color historically and problematically attributed to Asian skin. This is the point where abstraction takes the form of representation--a sculpture that very much looks like a small yellow building. The house is asphyxiating, choking. It's a container tightly enclosed inside another container. Right angles increase the architectural reference. The “house” has two feet, and that makes it into a being. The feet are both a stand and a stance. The gallery is both a container and a constraint through which Kim is able to speak. She comes at making sculpture from the position of an impasse; that is, she creates her own conditions of impossibility in order to deal with self-expression.

Mirena Kim

August 5 - September 30, 2023 @ The Floating Gallery
Opening reception August 5, 2023, 6-8 pm

In her second solo exhibition in the Proxy Gallery, Michele Jaquis continues her practice of foregrounding symbol, process and labor through the deconstruction of the seams of a US flag. The stars and stripes of flag (unpicked with a seam ripper, not torn) are then stuffed in the Proxy Gallery, in a way both reinforcing and undoing its institutional status: It is a gallery, and it is a wooden box, and it is a convenient shelf holding sewing-in-process. The flag is a national symbol, and it is also pieces of fabric sewn together in a particular manner.

In this way, Jaquis re-enacts modernist ideas about art: the flag is a picture, a representation, a symbol, and also in its material reality it is tri-color fabric held together by thread. Similarly, Shelf Life helps us to think about labor: both of the machine sewing of the flag in a factory, and the undoing of the flag by the artist. The final gesture is the stuffing of the pieces in the gallery in such a way that some strip(e)s, drip-like, exceed the frame of the gallery. 

This undone but not destroyed flag (perhaps waiting to be re-assembled at some point) also rubs against the idea of the readymade and the emptying of labor and craft in the conceptual tradition. While the flag is a ready-made, Jaquis’s taking-apart labor also speaks about the fragmented free time of a teacher and parent, and the conditions of making work in a home studio in-between meetings and other tasks. Nevertheless, it is important to Jaquis that she does not outsource this labor and instead does it herself.

What about the identification of the flag with right-wing politics? Surely, the undoing of a national symbol implies a critical stance. We can argue that the resulting installation calls attention to the labor involved in both making and unmaking: the pieces of fabric used to be a flag, and they could possibly be re-made into a future flag. Its shelf life is indeterminate, as is perhaps the state of our democracy.

Michele Jaquis

June 1-30, 2023

Vessels of Dignity attempts an enactment of disidentification. According to the Cuban-American academic José Esteban Muñoz, disidentification is a kind of performative action in which queer people of color take a position neither for nor against the dominant ideology, instead mobilizing intentionally disparate and contradictory modes of representation to subversive ends.

 In her solo exhibition for Proxy, Peralta projects a 4-minute video onto the back “wall” of the gallery, to the soundtrack of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, mixed with her own spoken voice and the sounds of various pop beats and electric rhythms. The video is shot inside the Proxy gallery and starts with an image of a mirror that reflects its surroundings. The artist’s hand, wearing long fake fingernails with rhinestones, “dances” the Swan Lake ballet. Later in the video the hand appears again, but this time only two fingers have the rhinestone fingernails, and the others are “naked.” Still later in the video, the hand is replaced by the wooden articulated hand traditionally used in art schools to teach Drawing and Sketching. The wooden hand is then shown to be manipulated by the living hand of the artist. 

 Appropriately, the Swan Lake plot is filled with themes of tragic love, betrayals, transformations, and mistaken identities. Peralta deftly uses a conglomeration of white Eurocentric symbols of high culture together with handmade cardboard structures from East Los Angeles that she is seen to be placing--or even throwing down-- in the video. Rather than contrasting a pure race, sexuality or class to the dominant culture, Peralta recognizes in herself an identification that includes stereotypes; a sensibility that can only be seen in specifics. Far from seeking to find herself, she instead seeks to lose herself in history.

Erica G. Peralta

May 5-June 5, 2023

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