May 2014

Hsin-Hsi Chen and Amanda Kates

Oftentimes, it is the very things that are different about work in an exhibition that are meant to intrigue. Such is the case with the works of Hsin-Hsi Chen and Amanda Kates at doris-mae.

Hsin-Hsi Chen (project space) has used one tool the duration of her career—the modest pencil. She has done so out of an interest in seeing where this medium of choice will take her. From her earliest beginnings, her pieces were constructed on paper, flat against a wall or table. But as her signature style emerged, her work was anything but flat. Hsin-Hsi has a way with graphite and can create depth, light, shadows and angles that couldn’t exist naturally on the flat surface. The works were sublime, peaceful, intriguing, beautiful.

Always looking for a challenge, Hsin-Hsi began to construct new surfaces to work on, mainly using wood that she handcut precisely. The sculptural pieces were gessoed and painted a rich flat white upon which she placed her mark-making. They would take on more dimension and present new challenges for the artist. The alterations to the surface were sublime and complex. Later, she would choose to leave some of the natural wood surface revealed in an extension of the series called Revealment.

At doris-mae, Hsin-Hsi was ready for the next progression in her work. Taking all the elements for which she was known, Hsin-Hsi created a full room installation. She began with a scale model of the project space upon which she drew. Disassembling the model, it was scanned and scaled to actual room size. In these scanned files, Hsin-Hsi made adjustments to her work that allowed for the precision, depth, shadows and light that were familiar in her earlier work. The result is a completely immersive experience in grayscale that blows the mind.

Amanda Kates (solo space) brings a different approach to her work. Her paintings are brash, colorful, unpredictable. Where Hsin-Hsi’s work creates a sense of calm in the viewer, Amanda’s has a tendency to create anxiety. She willfully uses color, big strokes, layering in a way that is exciting and stimulating and surprising.

Amanda’s work, in many ways, typifies the anxiety of the modern age. Taking cues from culture and social media, which she finds distracting and disturbing, Amanda builds from a general image that is recognizable. In three of her pieces, these are people—three of the richest men in America, in fact. In other works, she references a giant brain or an early day surgical theater.

These images are only a point of reference for Amanda, as she prefers for her work to address line and color and other formal elements. She paints intuitively and responsively to the marks around her. If the result is influenced by the inner workings of her mind, then we are much richer for it.

Looking at Hsin-Hsi’s installation, one gets a sense of calm, a response created from the uniformity of line, gradations of black to gray to white. We’ve referred to the project space playfully as Hsin-Hsi Chen’s Infinite Zen Chapel, for it feels meditative. But in the next room over, if you allow yourself time to get lost in Amanda Kates’ vibrant color, disconnected lines and thoughts, you might just bypass anxiety and reach a different state of peacefulness as well.


To see additional works by these artists, please follow these links:

Hsin-Hsi Chen
Amanda Kates