There’s a riot going on. That’s what I thought as I stood in front of Ye Qin Zhu’s large-scale installation piece at Dimin in Tribeca. The gallery space painted a matte black that seems to absorb all the light in the room, is dominated by one wall-mounted assemblage that is 27 feet long and five feet tall. There is a bench placed in front so that the viewer can take a few minutes to absorb the full volume of information and energy radiating from this piece.
And it is a lot to take in. Zhu is a maximalist and has filled these giant wooden panels with myriad objects, textures, and a narrative that morphs from one thing to another as it travels along the walls of the gallery. The panels are puzzled together such that the entire piece feels like one long connected dream image. Alternating between flat and low-relief surfaces, Zhu takes us on a journey that feels both material and global. Bits and pieces of imagery appear and disappear – dancing Mexican Skeleton musicians, Japanese characters, keyboards, beads, insects, fabric, plastic toys- the flotsam and jetsam of global culture floating through a hallucinatory jumble of color and light. The piece works as both a single installation– your eye taking in the entire Universe that Zhu has created– and as a piece to be dissected in bite-size portions as you walk along with it. It is an impressive accomplishment. I watched gallery visitors study the piece with rapt attention.
As impressive as the piece A Stage Within a Stage, I found myself drawn to the almost monochromatic pieces in the front room of the gallery. Shown on bright white walls, punctuated by natural shadow and sunlight, these much smaller assemblage wall pieces are subtle and play with formal properties of texture and form rather than global narratives. Each is covered in a pearlized surface that glitters gently, revealing soft pastel shades that undulate below the surfaces. The undersides are painted in fluorescent orange so that each piece has a brilliant aura that radiates from behind and around it. They appear to float an inch or two from the wall. The found objects and mixed materials are unified by the surface treatment, so we really see the forms as the light licks around the shapes.
The gallery has created an interesting dichotomy with this show. One room dark and pulsating with color, form, and narrative. The other is light and contemplative. I felt very strongly the push and pull between the two rooms. To me, the totality of the exhibition can be seen as the embodiment of Jungian dichotomies– a visual push and pull, if you will. Each room reflects visual traits that are the sensual opposite of the other. Seen together, the two rooms make for a complete “person,” a complete artistic vision. It is a statement that resonates long after you leave the gallery.
A Stage Within a Stage Thru. Oct. 14. DIMIN 406 Broadway, 2nd floor.
Photos courtesy of the artist, DIMIN, and Melissa Stern
About the writer: Melissa Stern lives in NYC and The Hudson Valley. She studied Anthropology and Art History at Wesleyan Univ. Her mixed material sculpture and drawings are in a number of corporate and museum collections, including The International Center For Collage, News Corp. Inc. JP Morgan Chase, The Arkansas Art Center, The Racine Art Museum, The Museum of Art and Design, and The Wiseman Museum in Minneapolis. Her multi-media project , The Talking Cure, has been touring the United States since 2012, showing at The Akron Museum of Art, Redux Contemporary Art Center (Charleston), The Weisman Museum, Real Art Ways (Hartford), and The Kranzberg Art Center (St. Louis), and at The Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton. MA. She has written about art and culture for The New York Press and CityArts for eight years and is a contributing writer to Hyperallergic and artcritical. Melissa has joined Art Spiel as co-editor and contributing writer.