March 28 – May 9, 2009
Reception for the Artist: Saturday, March 28, 6 – 9 pm
Los Angeles, CA - Sam Lee Gallery is pleased to present Disorientation by Los Angeles-based artist Phung Huynh. The gallery will host a reception for the artist on Saturday, March 28, 6 – 9 pm. The show opens on March 28 and closes on May 9, 2009.
Disorientation is comprised of 15 oil and acrylic paintings whose imagery fluctuates between the sweet and the grotesque. Phung Huynh’s latest series is largely inspired by Chinese auspicious imagery. Examples of typical auspicious imagery – mass-produced and often found on calendars and knickknacks in Chinatown tourist shops – include representations of plump children, luscious pomegranates, succulent peaches, colorful carps, verdant lotus flowers, and powerful gods and goddesses. Such objects and figures are usually combined into certain scenes to procure good omens, acting as harbingers of success and fortune when displayed on the walls.
By appropriating from this specific Chinese iconography, Huynh, born in Vietnam of Cambodian and Chinese descent, deliberately takes such icons out of their traditional context and rearranges her subjects into perverse allegories. In Live Long and Prosper (2009), the god of longevity with his gigantic phallic-head, who is riding a billowing cloud, descends onto the earthly realm and resides over the phalanx of cherubic, naked baby girls who are sexually posed and mischievously frolicking with a ripened and oversized peach. Here, Huynh turns such characters on their heads by deconstructing and obfuscating their conventional meanings; the naughty children assume adult behavior, and the objects have a life of their own, thus creating a tension or disorientation for the viewer. This disorientation is also a metaphor for the artist’s own cultural identity and "orientation," a continual slippage between her western assimilation and eastern heritage.
Huynh, trained in the rigors of western academic painting and influenced by 17th century Italian baroque artists such as Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi, conflates old masters painting techniques with graphic illustrations to create these beautifully executed, original pieces. Incorporating Renaissance pictorial framing devices, Huynh’s Milk and Honey (2009) is reminiscent of Raphael’s Alba Madonna but has gone wild. Huynh’s painting depicts an Asian “Madonna” with two naked babies suckling her breasts -- all enveloped by a circular, pictorial frame. This directs the viewer to the center of the work where the maternal figure is glaring back, as if to comment that you have been caught intruding on a highly intimate moment in time. In Good Fortune, Good Luck (2008), this large-scale work recalls The Birth of Venus by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli. In Huynh’s version, the three highly rendered, scantily clad cherubs (“Venus” in the center with two males flanking her) are encapsulated by a flat, pictorial trefoil; each figure, contained within its own circle, is acting out flirtatious and suggestive gestures. Huynh draws her inspirations from western iconic paintings but spins the work to achieve her own ideas.
Huynh currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She holds a bachelor’s degree in illustration from Art Center College of Design (1999) and a master’s of fine art from New York University (2001). Her work has been displayed in numerous group exhibitions in Brooklyn, Connecticut, Manhattan and Los Angeles; she’s also had critical, solo exhibitions at Gagosian Gallery (Los Angeles), McCaig-Welles Gallery (Brooklyn, NY) and Sweeney Art Gallery (Riverside, CA). Her most recent projects include public art commissions from the Community Redevelopment Agency and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2 separate commissions) in Los Angeles.
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Sam Lee Gallery is located at 990 N. Hill Street #190, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Phone 323-227-0275, Facsimile 323-227-0256. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 12 to 6 pm. For detailed information, please visit the gallery’s website, www.samleegallery.com.