Magazine article Artforum International

Pearl C. Hsiung: Max Wigram Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Pearl C. Hsiung: Max Wigram Gallery

Article excerpt

Fantasy and humor are fundamental to the work of Los Angeles-based artist Pearl C. Hsiung, a recent Goldsmiths grad whose work is focused on painting but also extends into installation. The six large paintings on view in "To the Big Life," her second show in London, present scenes from a manga-influenced sci-fi realm whose inhabitants--for so they seem, rather than the bits of scenery one might think they ought to be--are, for example, some ludicrously precarious outcrop of rock that seem to hover in the clouds, one of them capped by a cracked and empty shell and a pink bow (Bros Geodorous, 2005), tilting crystalline towers and crimped strings of pearls or white thread (Gemmy Shafts, 2005; No Points, 2005), or volcanoes that emit, instead of or in addition to fire and smoke, such incongruous items as a red-banded cactus waving a tattered white flag of surrender (Kablooms, 2005), a blank picket sign (Shungri-blam, 2005), or a black cube wearing a leather belt and itself erupting in turn, spewing colored banners along with the smoke (Pyriteous, 2005).

Need it be said that all these gushing, looming, animated protuberances constitute so many blatant jokes about the phallus? Or are they really just about the penis? What's funny about Hsiung's jokes is, in any case, that they are double-edged: The object of the artist's humor is also the object of her insistent, serious attention. The cool, almost clinical precision with which she paints her Pop-surrealist flights of inflamed fancy is infused with a curious tenderness. Still, it might be argued that Hsiung's efforts to frame the paintings within a full-bodied installational context are necessitated mainly by their lack of internal plasticity and atmosphere; their technique is so illustrational that the images sometimes appear as if at one remove. …

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