18th Street Arts Center Atrium Gallery – Helen Chung and Jennifer Celio: Planes and Structures

October 14–November 11, 2017


In blending motifs culled from architecture, design and nature, these two artists already make work that constitutes its own study in contrasts and hybridity; exhibited together, multiple crosscurrents bring out facets of each in the most enlightening manner. Taking full advantage of the mind’s instinct for commonalities, the pairing amplifies the most salient aspects in both, focusing attention on those elements which are so germane to each individual artist’s practice. Chung’s works evoke a Moebius Strip with a Modernist twist. They trace contours of an architectural but expressive geometry whose shapes also echo brushstrokes—and in fact they are paintings. They occupy sculptural space but straddle the line at all times, and from every angle. Chung’s Minimalist palette is akin to those of mid-century abstractionists like Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella or Donald Judd, but she hasn’t forgotten her Escher.


Helen Chung and Jennifer Celio: Planes and Structures. Installation View at 18th Street Arts Center.


For her part, Celio has been thinking about ways to expand and disrupt her picture planes, not only for reasons of optical and spatial curiosity, but as a way of furthering her narrative content. That content speaks to the tensions between the natural and built environments and the havoc wreaked by civilization upon nature. To these ends, she incorporates a range of materials and structural techniques as well as stylistic modes within single works. Celio’s pieces flirt with installation, with ropes, plexi, fasteners, paper and a translucent mylar-like material—all of which engages viewers’ space right in their sight lines and changes with their movements, creating literal and optical depth in shifting tectonics, so that each one tells a more complete story. Her landscape imagery—icebergs and forests, storms and seas—is occasionally coupled with references to buildings and dwellings, so as to create more dramatic economies of scale and reference the power of natural forces like wind and rain and the passage of time. Like a post-Pop Turner, Celio’s atmospheric renderings are moody excuses for broad passages of abstraction. Where Chung’s wall sculptures seem more intimate and painterly; they also bring out the sculptural qualities in Celio’s by physical proximity, so that the whole is more of a continuum than a juxtaposition.

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