On Paint and Progress

By Emily Conklin, Staff Writer

The paintings are strikingly different, yet each series commands individual attention and meditation despite vastly different mediums and cultural traditions. Li Gang’s ink and acrylic concoctions illuminate the left side of the gallery, Noa Charuvi’s semi-abstract oils on the right in Art100’s new exhibition, “Construction and Contemplation.”

Opening its doors in December 2016, the Art100 gallery is dedicated to cross-cultural communication through the visual arts. By representing geographically diverse artists, the two locations of the gallery in China and New York City strive to connect not only east and west, but everything in between. This second exhibition in the space highlights two artists challenging the tension between the living past of their chosen materials as they surge into the modern world.

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Photos by Emily Conklin.

Li Gang’s medium of choice involves a ritual process of personal meditation steeped in Buddhist religious philosophy. Traditionally only created in black and white compositions striving to copy old masters, Gang adds bursts of ecstatic color to his pieces with acrylics, a thicker paint that literally jumps of the paper due to its greater viscosity, resting on top of the thin, absorbent ink layers underneath. The energy of the artist is believed to be palpable within Chinese ink work, communicated through the brush strokes and the harmonic composition. Gallery director Michelle Y. Loh draws a parallel between Li Gang’s hybrids and the architectural process, saying “the structure is built from the bottom up,” facilitating a connection to Noa’s built environments mirrored across the room. The abstract quality of the paintings stems from an expressionistic take on ancient calligraphy, as well as the collision between wet ink and paint. Beautifully abstract yet peaceful, the results offer a moment of personal meditation to all who contemplate the work and its energy.

Continuing the circumambulation of the gallery space brings the viewer to Noa’s delicious oil paintings, seeing a different narrative. Noa worked alongside construction workers at a building site on the tip of Manhattan, painting as the buildings rose from the ground up. Describing the location as “full of light and air filtering through 360 degrees of glass,” Noa became entranced by the construction site and its materials. Originally focused on creating a bold landscape painting of the site, she came to feel compelled to give the industrial objects and spaces around her their own arena. Everything from nails to cardboard boxes is immortalized within her liquid lens, but with an abstraction that accentuates the colors and softens the forms to resemble the thick and layered qualities of the paint.

New York City and China have both experienced rapid, chaotic growth in recent years. China’s booming population and its ancient culture are tightly intertwined despite the skyscrapers and McDonalds’ of the modern cities. Similarly, Manhattan is stretching the island’s limits with technology and engineering feats, effectively remaining a symbol of the strengths of the United States, especially in this post-9/11 landscape. The tension between tradition and progress is a challenge that both artists face, yet through brushstrokes and physical application of paint to paper, Wang and Noa speak to something deeper, a stubborn dichotomy within us all.

“Construction and Contemplation” will be on display at Art100 through March 31st. Admission is free.

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