Eccentric Abstraction at MoCA L.I.

Photo story
A group of art pieces in a room

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Installation view

John Cino, curator of Eccentric Abstraction at MoCA L.I, first encountered the works of Eva Hesse, Jackie Winsor, and Linda Benglis during his undergraduate years, an experience that deeply influenced him. He draws a throughline from their pioneering works to the current exhibition, “For each of the artists in the show—Stephanie Beck, Sky Kim, Christina Massey, and Sui Park—the process of making is a visible element of the work, and the forms they create are evocative with minimal narrative, Cino explains.

A group of sculptures on a wall

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Stephanie Beck’s works, three-dimensional abstracted linear constructions, skillfully incorporate fallen branches and wood mosaics. These pieces blend elements from architectural and design history with patterns found in nature, specifically in the context of an urban environment.

Stephanie Beck. Untitled (London Plane) 

In Untitled (London Plane), finished pieces of wood hinged with wooden pegs are connected to branches, resembling prosthetics. The artist expresses an attempt to return a mechanically altered material to its natural state. The work reflects the human interventions with trees that Beck observes as she walks around New York: “exuberant cherry tree branches unnaturally grafted onto a pole-straight rootstock, street trees that are cut and shaped around powerlines, or held up straight by poles and straps, and the frequent hacking of trees and bushes around buildings to trim them to an inoffensive size,” she notes.

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Stephanie Beck, Mosaic 5

Beck collects fallen branches around her apartment and combines them with finished wood scraps from local carpenters. Hinging these wood pieces with wooden or bamboo pegs creates flexible drawing-like lines that resemble gesturing hands gravitating toward the earth. For instance, in Untitled (London Plane), the hinged lines balance on end. They are held against the wall by a single string. This setup embodies the precarious tension we have created between ourselves and nature and how our actions affect the earth’s future.

A room with a painting on the wall

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Installation view

If Beck’s sculptures encapsulate a walk in the park, Sky Kim’s tightly rendered five watercolor paintings evoke cosmic travel. They create a sense of meditation and raw energy— revealing tiny crystals affixed to their surfaces, emitting flickering light as the viewer moves toward them. Kim’s work derives from her belief in reincarnation and her interest in quantum physics and sacred geometry. The five featured paintings are taken from three series— Multivers, Microuniverse, and Deep-sea. The Multiverse Series pieces had been made before the pandemic and displayed darker tones. In the ensuing series, which started during the three-month lockdown, Kim shifted her previous color scheme to bright colors, such as Barbie pink, bursts of vivid colors she had never used, against the invisible microorganisms that swept the world. “It was as if I was trying to sustain a lifeless reality that felt surreal,” says Kim.

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Sky Kim, Archangel Raphael

Archangel Rafael is a piece the artist feels personally attached to. Kim first worked on this mandala in 2013, when the artist’s partner was diagnosed with cancer. Greenish gemstones emit healing energy for those who are going through physical, mental, and emotional suffering. While the large circle, composed of smaller circles, creates a sense of containment, the outer pink circles radiating from their centers stir a sense of outward movement. Kim’s work makes us think about the relationships between movement and stasis, containment and radiation, or as the artist describes, her work is “comforting and dizzying, fluid and stagnant.”

A white object with spikes

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Sui Park, Wiggling II-4

Like Beck, Sui Park’s sculptures are made with found material—mostly cable (or ‘zip’) tie. If Kim’s mandalas may resemble a meditation on cosmic states of being, Park’s sculpture Wiggling II-4 echoes a floating single-cell microorganism. These solitary organisms ruled the earth for billions of years before cells organized themselves into new structures. Park’s entangled knots and linear fringes capture the moment between these phases.

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Sui Park, Sprinkle. Photo Courtesy: Sui Park

Sui Park’s other sculpture, Sprinkle, which comprises 44 pieces of colorful cable ties, also represents the abstracted subtle movements and characteristics of our evolving lives. Here, it depicts the emotion in a specific moment we recognize from our daily lives—the sense of excitement and expectation while decorating one’s favorite cookies with toppings. The flexibility and simplicity of these mass-produced cable ties enable multiple curvatures and colors that recreate excitement and anticipation.

A sculpture on the wall

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Installation view

Like Park, Christina Massey also transforms remnants of industrial products into objects that echo growth in nature. In Massey’s work, cans are sourced from craft breweries. Found cans offer her a treasure trove of words and images, adding rich contextual layers to each piece. Massey’s process involves cutting the aluminum cans into strips, which are then painted and assembled into colorful shapes that resemble plants or exotic marine creatures. The title Lineas, is a mash-up of the words “Liana” (aka vines) and the word “lines,” reflecting the form—each piece in this series is similar in scale—long and linear. They are also constructed from the same materials yet vary in color palette. Massey says that this series was created for a site-specific installation where she wanted to create a feeling of seasonal changes—from bright pinks and oranges to cool blues and purples. 

Throughout Eccentric Abstraction, the love of process and materiality is abundant in myeriad forms—from intricate watercolors to wood, aluminum, and cable-tie sculptures. Cino’s curatorial approach of mingling and pairing works highlights the artists’ shared interest in form, evoking a sense of entanglement between the organic and the produced.

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Installation view

All photos courtesy of the artists and the curator.

Eccentric Abstraction : Stephanie Beck • Sky Kim • Christina Massey • Sui Park Curated by John Cino at MoCA L.I. through June 2, 2024. Coffee with a Curator:  May 4, 2024, @ 12:00 PM (In person and on Zoom)