New works by Kate Conlon, Bryan Volta, and Jenyu Wang.
We all start with a body.
It is the first point of contact an individual has with the world, and it is from this position we perceive everything around us. The body is a threshold between the physical world and our minds. We absorb knowledge and learn skills through personal encounters and attempt to rationalize these experiences by inserting meaning into them. In doing so, we often find that dominant narratives do not always reflect our individual realities.
The artists in Fragile States, Kate Conlon, Bryan Volta, and Jenyu Wang, challenge established structures in an attempt to understand the uncertain, the uncanny, and the unknown. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, these three artists create physical manifestations of invisible phenomena, evoking familiarity, absurdity, obsession, and futility. Through their work, each artist constructs pieces of an imagined reality as if in a parallel universe, positing alternative narratives through these new representations and creating a generative space for repressed instincts and intuitions.
Kate Conlon utilizes the methods and language of scientific investigation to explore the ways in which we make sense of the world. Her sculptures, installations, and paintings examine the strategies and tools used to understand physical landscape and spacescape. While researching “dead reckoning”—the navigational practice of calculating one’s current position by merely estimating the direction and distance traveled—Conlon stumbled across the South Pointing Chariot, a fabled ancient Chinese device used to calculate direction of travel. For this exhibition, she constructed her own version of the South Pointing Chariot, of which there are no physical iterations in existence today. Her version of the device was concocted through piecing together research, and although functional, is flawed by design. Conlon’s work highlights the inefficacy and absurdity of attempting to understand the world around us, reminding us of our futility and insignificance in the universe.
Bryan Volta is fascinated with the plasticity of reality. His objects and images are conduits for absurd cognitive experiences that create an uncanny effect and reveal the unstated relationships individuals have with secondary bodies and objects. He makes sculptures that replicate fractions of a whole object—a chicken foot, a section of a hydraulic breaker, a human hand—using materials that assign the objects with ambiguous meaning, such as plastic, gelatin, and aluminum. Volta, a former sleep technician, distorts and pieces together unexpected objects, materials, and textures that incite visceral experiences and tease out suppressed thoughts and desires, forcing us to question pleasure and perversion. Through his disjointed and mutilated perspective, he confronts the feelings and anxieties that come with finding oneself in the disconnect between the psychological and physical world.
Jenyu Wang walks the fragile line between infatuation and obsession while exploring the limits of love, both as an action and a state of being. She singles out seemingly innocuous instances, such as a photograph of her sleeping partner or an endless video loop of a waterfall from the 1997 Wong Kar-wai film “Happy Together,” and extracts their underlying dark essence by manipulating the medium or media. The uncontrollable violence of the waterfall is encapsulated in an endless loop through Wang’s video installation, while the enlarged image of her sleeping partner is entirely methodically punctured alluding to the obsessive, and even voyeuristic, nature of love. Exposing our inner impulses, Wang pairs sculptural objects with photography and video to frame a relational experience that interrogates perception, intuition, and the space in between thinking and feeling.
There are experiences that are difficult or impossible to make sense of objectively. At times we accept never fully comprehending those things we cannot explain, like the imprecise tools used to navigate the world or our convoluted relationship with objects or the violence of love. Kate Conlon, Bryan Volta, and Jenyu Wang amplify their subjective perspective in order to place new meaning onto familiar and foreign objects and concepts found in daily life. Their reinterpretation begins with the body, questioning the ways we each perceive, react, and relate through our own cognition. This investigation forms an opening in which we can acknowledge our desires, whether we reject or embrace them, and build our own idiosyncratic narratives.
KATE CONLON uses the methods and language of scientific investigation and makes multimedia work that challenges objective truths, examines reality, and repositions the role of perception. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BA from Smith College and Goldsmiths, as well as teaches in the Printmedia departments at SAIC and Columbia College. In addition to being a Co-Founder of Fernwey Gallery, she is the Director of Fernwey Editions, which collaborates with emerging and mid-career artists on limited edition prints and multiples.
More information about Kate Conlon can be found at kateconlon.com
BRYAN VOLTA reveals the unstated relationships individuals have with secondary bodies and objects through absurd images and sculptures that tap into the human psyche, forcing us to question pleasure and perversion. He is currently an MFA candidate in the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, and holds a BFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Volta’s work has exhibited in various venues across the country including Aqua Art Miami, Chicago Artists Coalition, Gallery 400, and Johalla Projects, to name a few.
More information about Bryan Volta can be found at bryanvolta.com
JENYU WANG intimately isolates moments of humanity—the real feelings, responses, and implications of life—and interrogates the gap between thinking and feeling, underlining the vulnerability of the body through video, photography, and sculpture. She has an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and an MA in Modern Taiwanese Art History from the University of Maryland, College Park. Wang curated Plural Vision in 2014, an exhibition on pluralism in contemporary Asian visual culture at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and has contributed writing to art criticism websites Temporary Art Review and Chicago Artist Writers.
More information about Jenyu Wang can be found at jenyuwang.com
FRAGILE STATES was curated by MAKE SPACE, an artist-run online platform and curatorial initiative that explores the practices of experimental contemporary artists. Its mission is to expand the public understanding of the artistic practice by investigating a diversity of art making and conceptual concerns as well as the condition of being an artist today. Make Space, collaboratively run by Lynnette Miranda, Etta Sandry, and Kathy Cho, has curated exhibitions at MDW Fair 2012 at Mana Contemporary Chicago, ACRE Projects, and Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space in New York.
More information about Make Space can be found at make-space.net
More information about Kathy Cho can be found at kathycho.info
More information about Lynnette Miranda can be found at lynnettemiranda.com
More information about Etta Sandry can be found at ettasandry.com