Entanglement is a new exhibition of works by Jac Lahav, Cecile Chong, Jack Henry, and Erik Olson. The work ranges from the psychological to the sentimental with many references to the natural world. Much of the work is dissimilar, like a portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg wearing leopard print and a leafy necklace which stands in contrast to atmospheric encaustic paintings referencing Chinese landscape. Together these pieces take us deep into a post-pandemic psyche. The binding theme is plants, using nature as a metaphor for an internal growth many of us have experienced during the past two years. Entanglement opened on Thursday March 3rd and is up at BravinLee Programs in Chelsea New York until April 9th. We sat down with gallerist Karin Bravin and two of the artists to talk about the show.
AS: How did this show begin?
Karin Bravin: The idea of the show began during a very large group at the gallery where works by Cecile Chong and Jac Lahav were hanging in close proximity. It started with a feeling that I couldn’t put into words, and I thought of Erik Olson’s work too. I was interested in his psychological portraits that had painted landscapes and moonscapes within the outline of the human face. Another work that interested me was one of a human shadow cast upon a field of daisies. Olson’s work added a poetic, psychological dimension.
AS : Can you speak more about the connection between psychology and plants in this show?
Karin Bravin: I was thinking about the way growth infiltrates our being, our psyche. I kept thinking about how our roots were entangled. John Lee, the wordsmith of Bravinlee wrote about it nicely “Human life, and all our philosophies, convictions, and behaviors, are as much a part of the natural world as a dandelion. The human figure is a semiotic construct where these elements intersect, however much we like to think of ourselves as distinct and apart from nature. We look for rhyme and reason in the chaos around us, and with a little luck experience the inspired adhockery of the human condition. We glimpse the beauty of our entanglement with what we think of as nature through art”
AS: Cecile Chong has these wispy layered landscapes that really speak to this beauty of entanglement. Cecile, can you tell us a little bit more about your technique?
Cecile Chong: I use encaustic (heated beeswax, resin, and pigment) and mixed media to create and reconstruct narratives. Each of my paintings has 25 to 30 layers of encaustic, and I use a collage-like process, layering materials and using a heat gun to fuse them all together.
My materials are very important (powder pigments from Morocco, India, volcanic ash from Ecuador, rice paper, and circuit board components). They are used as signifiers representing a place, culture, and identity. Another element in my work is appropriated images from vintage children’s books and dictionaries from different cultures representing East and West. In addition the image of a swaddle “guagua” (baby in Quechua), is sprinkled on branches and throughout my landscapes as rocks, fruits, and flowers, representing the tabula rasa of humanity,
AS: Cecile, your work also talks about roots and culture. What is their connection to the natural world?
Cecile Chong: I was born in Ecuador to Chinese parents, lived in Macau from the age of 10 to 15. I returned to Ecuador for high school, then came to New York to study art at age 19. Culturally the move to Asia from South America was extremely abrupt and disorienting for a 10-year-old. I struggled to look for clues to my previous life in Ecuador. It was harder to find a common thread in food, language, or people, but I did find a direct connection that I was looking for in nature, in grass, flowers, plants, rocks, clouds, the sky, the sun and moon. At that age, I started to become aware that all the world’s cultures can find our foundation in nature.
AS: In this show nature acts as a metaphor for the psyche of personal connection. Karin, what is your relationship to plants?
Karin Bravin: For most of my life, I had one plant. It was usually half dead. I barely watered it. When the pandemic began, I started buying, and propagating in earnest. Plants now take up a good part of our living room and bring me great pleasure.
AS: Jac Lahav, you are showing some tender little plant paintings on paper. What is your fascination with plants?
Jac Lahav: My plant story is similar to Karin’s. I also fondly remember my grandma’s house in Israel being covered in succulents. During the pandemic my plant collection flourished. Enamored by houseplants I considered their presence a form of nurturing. At the same time I also became a licensed foster parent. These plant paintings are equally reminiscences of my childhood and meditations on caring for others.
AS – And what about your portrait projects?
Jac Lahav: Well, I’m known for painting portraits of historical figures. These are often equally about painting itself, and about education and remembering. My portraits are re-telling narratives about identity in America and our struggle for justice. Recently the plants are growing into these portraits, and perhaps nature is reclaiming our history.
AS : Reclaiming is also the theme of the floating sculptures by Jack Henry. Can you tell us about these works?
Karin Bravin: Jack Henry’s wall and free-standing sculptures are made of epoxy resin, cement and steel. He is drawn to the moments when objects (man-made detritus) depart from human contact and harbor within plant growth. He sees the work as “monuments to environmental disaffection” and his material is put through a range of processes that are emblematic of industry’s role in the Anthropocene, such as resin and cement casting
AS: Anything else we should know about the show?
Karin Bravin: Come see it. Our hours are Wednesday through Saturday 12-5
Entanglement runs March 3rd – April 9th at BravinLee Programs
526 West 26th Street #211 NYC 10001
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 11-6