Zhu’s wall works read like a map of his body’s passage through space. One can imagine the artist’s chaotic constructions made as though he were an adhesive, tumbling through an inexhaustible landscape of detritus. Seeming to use everything at hand, Zhu refuses to close the door on any possible direction the work may take. By welcoming missteps or errors in his paintings, he is able to disengage with any right/wrong paradigm that might disrupt the work. As an arts educator, for Zhu this process of fostering growth while suspending the impulse to edit, is a technique for genuine learning. It is a practice of opening up, an attempt to occupy a position alien to himself, rather than a selective learning that closes him off. His repeated layering and imbedding of imagery is a means for increasing accessibility, blurring the line between what the viewer thinks they may or may not know about the work. Zhu believes in the curative power of fantasy, that following its unpredictable path presents transformative opportunities and that through it we can face the things in the world that we cannot bear. For Zhu these may be existential dilemmas about the vastness of the unknown. For Cheryl Bentley on the other hand, it’s important the burdens of living can be named.
In earlier work, Bentley’s sculptures and drawings grew out of engagements with isolated sites of inquiry: the bed, as an incubator for feelings of vulnerability; the orifice, as embodied liminality. The artist’s new series of sculptures confront what she sees as the societal pressure of constant composure. Like Zhu’s push for impulsivity and action, Bentley seeks to break with the mores that keep sadness and mourning relegated to the private. Her pieces on view are offerings for the sad and the suffering. They center around endlessly-crying water fountains, sculptures for the tears that have been lost in the world and tears as yet unshed. Bentley uses the public structure of the fountain as means to imagine a communal reckoning with the universality of despair and its public performance.
For Chimeras, the artist also presents a large, blue velvet bow, a stand-in for the matching bows she and a childhood friend wore in their hair and which they kept carefully arranged, clipped to a long ribbon in their respective bedrooms. The work is a call for the reclamation of lost innocence, for a time when one could wail uncontrollably in public without fear of ostracization. In much the way that Ye Qin Zhu derives empathy from the poetic depths of his fantasy worlds, Bentley’s work reinforces connectedness with others. For her, knowing that one is not alone in one’s sadness is the first step toward healing.