Tâm Văn Trần Primordial Sounds of the Avatar | Medrie MacPhee Qualia: I Feel You
1700 S Santa Fe Ave #101, Los Angeles, CA 90021
Saturday, June 1 at 4:00 PM 6:00 PM
Ends Jul 6, 2024
Vielmetter Los Angeles is pleased to announce Primordial Sounds of the Avatar, Tâm Văn Trần’s solo exhibition with the gallery, featuring artworks that explore a unique alignment of cosmological revelations through paintings, ceramics, sculptures, and works on paper. Trần creates intricately colored and textured works that fuse primordial-futuristic mythologies with botanical and oceanic content. These complex references orbit through his practice and are reinforced by his material explorations and cartoon and science fiction overtones. For this exhibition, Trần presents paintings on canvas that function as stitched zines with paper pages; and sculptures including masks, large ceramic vessels and smaller vases with upside-down handles on glazed ready-made bricks. With this new work, Trần continues his exploration of painting and its sculptural possibilities by evoking painting’s history of using thick swathes of oil to evoke energy and emotive possibilities. With drips, pours, and scumbling effects, he uses ceramic glazes of scroll-like imagery on vases, sculptures, and on his paintings on canvas. Trần employs both painting’s improvisational techniques to manipulate the thickness of glazes and ceramic’s vitrification process to achieve drips and wet-on-wet effects. Sited in an expansive and lush indoor-outdoor studio, Trần’s large collection of cactuses and California native plants provides inspiration in colors, forms, and materials. The white powdery coating on such native succulents as the Dudleya Brittonii resonates with the pastel tones of the pre-fire dry glazes. Trần also uses the ephemeral processes of weathering, fading, fermentation, and oxidization to allow nature’s processes to contribute to the completion of his works, particularly on the clay paintings and drawings on canvas. He carefully considers the cycles of the ceramic process—from the wet terra-cotta clay, to the dry glazed vessels before being fired, and the final vitrification through high heat. In the painting diptychs, Trần uses raw red clay on both paper and canvas to generate evocative, iron oxide “cave” drawings that traverse past, present, and future. Using rolled thin slabs of clay, he cuts images of sea creatures directly on the paintings. The resulting incision creates outline shadows which, when fired, are shattered, then reattached to the canvases with silver acrylic paint. These clay figures reference the practice of deity generation in Indian Tantric practices and they evoke regenerative possibilities of immigrants transforming into avatars with limitless powers. By incorporating zippers into the large stitched-zine paintings, Trần’s terra-cotta abstractions, with egg-shaped ocean-ready coracles, or vessels, link past technological inventions with those of the future. Three large ceramic Divination Jars, each embellished with two individual I Ching hexagrams, represent the I Ching’s “answers” to Trần’s “question” for each vase. Hand-built from slabs of clay, the glazed colored free-standing mask and elegant smaller vases suggest small family groupings afloat on glazed bricks, “vehicles for travel,” as the artist calls them. The mask forms contain protective masculine energy, while the vases with long sinuous limbs exude protective feminine energy, evoking both traveling stages and slow-moving ships. Reveries about vulnerability and isolation meander through Trần’s abstracted imagery—a four-fingered hand caught in the sharply pointed teeth of long-snouted marine creatures, a group of minute vessels huddle together on a boat like-glazed brick sculpture while guarded over by a protective alien entity, and apparitions of protective spirits transform into glowing glazed-encrusted two-handled vases. The speckled profusion of colors mirrors the reflections of light bouncing off turbulent waves of the moving ocean. The enigmatic scenes evoke a state of selfless vulnerability in the face of one’s desire to concretely understand a sublime experience, such as the unfathomable depth and vastness of the sea. Trần’s own oceanic emigration voyage from Vietnam as a young child, alone with his siblings, and later, his encounters with deep sea swimming in Santa Monica during the Covid pandemic, connect fundamentally to vulnerabilities of our precarious human bodies. Ultimately, Trần contemplates multiple dualities of existence and the regenerative powers of avatar reveries—the simultaneous pulse of past and present, fear and desire, order and chaos—rippling and floating through his ceramic universe. Tâm Văn Trần was born in Kon Tum, Vietnam, and lives and works in Los Angeles. He graduated from the Pratt Institute in New York and studied Animation at the Graduate School of Film and Animation at the University of California Los Angeles. He received the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant for Painting and the Pollock Krasner Fellowship in 2001. - Vielmetter Los Angeles is pleased to announce Qualia: I Feel You, New York-based painter Medrie MacPhee’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, and her first in Los Angeles. In her newest work, MacPhee creates potently physical paintings composed of ordinary garments, deconstructed, then pulled flat and collaged into a distinct matrix of overlapping organic and rectangular shapes. After decades as a painter of architecturally-inspired Surrealistic landscape paintings, MacPhee shifted her focus to works that play with color and texture in a synthesis of formal improvisation and industrial design. She cuts up found and cast-off garments, then affixes them to large panels, carefully aligning seams, zippers, buttons, or belt-loops to create a new scaffolding. Over this puzzle-like infrastructure, MacPhee reorients the outlines of the garments by painting the entire canvas white. She then paints a new, overlapping—related, but not quite aligned—chromatic grid, often outlining new shapes or existing garments with slim strands of tinted piping. The implied presence of the body—through elements that articulate legs, necks, arms—creates a simultaneously humorous and poignant humanistic pull that echoes tangibly in our subconscious. The resulting compositions read as tactile presences that might reference a contemporary take on Gee’s Bend quilts in the irregular formal patchwork, Cubistic assemblages that play with edgy contours, and landscapes of gridded agricultural fields seen from above. MacPhee’s working philosophy and practice resonate with artists such as Anni Albers and her focus on innovative textile designs, Harmony Hammond’s materiality and ethos bound to her monochromatic abstractions, and the female Russian Constructivists’ (Lyubov Popova, Varvara Stepanova, and Natalia Goncharova) revolutionary structural approaches to painting. MacPhee considers each work an arena of play where the real coexists and complements an imagined verbal/visual language. As the artist says, “the pauses and gaps, the symbiotic relationship between the present and absent, the subterranean level of feeling and instinct that lies under words, and the force of their undertow” are reflected in the new paintings in the exhibition. She describes below the meaning of the evocative title, Qualia: I Feel You. Qualia is the term philosophers coined to describe an entirely subjective experience associated with the state of consciousness. It is the shadow presence that takes us beyond rational, scientific explanation and, in doing so, is the co-pilot who interprets all sensate experience with simultaneity. Color, shape, musicality, texture, tonality, line, dimensionality come into play immediately and the associations that arise are processed over time. There is something comedic about a neurologist holding a brain and showing with a pointer where in this gelatinous mass our emotions and sensations are located. In a surrounding culture that is a constant barrage of information processing, we are a species that is using outdated hardware (our bodies) to comprehend the virtual world we have created. These paintings draw their inspiration through a Beckettian operation of sourcing secondhand clothing and items from the bins of 99 cent stores and charity shops, elevating them into a grander realm. Each painting possesses something of the shapes of the people who wore them but enriched with new possibility. Although not three-dimensional, all the accumulations of seams, textures, colors, notions present both figure and ground “pressed into service.” As Susan Sontag remarked “Our task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work than is already there. Our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all.” Medrie MacPhee was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and has resided in New York City since 1976. She received a B.F.A. from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax in 1977.
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