Various Small Fires is pleased to present, Next of Kin, the exhibition debut of six American artists in Seoul, South Korea. In the unsettling ups and downs of the current COVID-19 crisis, VSF has taken the opportunity this summer to focus on a universal constant: family.
Pushing beyond its biological definition, the artists capture members of their families, chosen tribes, and imagined ancestors in intimate portraits that reflect an unprecedented era of shifting priorities with an insistence on intimacy and tenderness. During the lockdown, Gina Beavers, Diedrick Brackens, Jessie Homer French, Chase Hall, Cindy Ji Hye Kim, and Calida Rawles contemplate the figures at the core of their social disruption.
In nuclear lovers, two figures (one being Brackens) affectionately sprawl across an abstracted textile matrix that was inspired by Brackens’ own bedding, hands reaching for one another in their longing for touch.
Inspired by makeup tutorials by Korean cosmetic YouTube star, Dain Yoon, Beavers’ newest painting of mascara-laden eyes, 16 Step Smoky Eye, unfolds as a portrait of desire and self-improvement in the digital age of self-isolation.
Rawles captures a friend gliding across the water’s surface in her photorealistic painting, New Day Coming. Headless in an enchanting reverie of bubbles, ripples and kaleidoscopic abstractions, the portrait is both calming and unnerving – celebrating the powerful resilience of the black female body while alluding to the danger and duplexity of a world above and below the water’s surface.
A vintage car is piled high with friends in swimsuits and surfboards hanging out of the trunk. A beach scene by Hall, who has surfed along the California coast throughout his adolescence, depicts the joy and camaraderie of a favorite pastime. Yet as its title suggests, All my brothers go to heavens, the painting also underscores the underlying fear behind every African American outing in an increasingly violent and prejudiced modern day America.
French portrays her closest fly-fishing companion in Magical Realism on the Cowichan, guiding her through the Cowichan River in British Columbia on their yearly fishing retreat. Sunday at Rensselaerville Falls depicts a picturesque family picnic with members enjoying various activities in upstate New York where Homer resided as a child.
Twisting through a building scaffold, a common view outside one’s window in New York, Kim’s Character #18 embodies a visual metaphor of her mother tongue, the Korean language, as the figurative character’s limbs intersect like that of a Hangul “character” of layered consonants and vowels.
Jessie Homer French
Cindy Ji Hye Kim
- — Artnet