Come for the red bean cakes, stay for the art.
That sums up my day in Chinatown, where very serious galleries are tucked behind retro storefronts, sheltered by rows and rows of red lanterns and ensconced between antiques and dry goods. Chung King Road was completely empty when I arrived, giving me the feeling that I was in some weird dreamscape or at least a bizarre movie set. I blame my hallucinogenic muscle relaxants.
Anyway, Gustavo Godoy’s explosion of wood, plexiglass, muslin board, and rubber floor tread at the Happy Lion produced a similar effect: the smell of the wood and rubber alone took me back to my monkey bar days, as did the sign that invited gallery-goers to climb the larger installations at his or her own risk. The exhibition is properly titled What’s the Big Idea? because while the materials are recognizable and elemental, the works themselves are exciting and force the viewer to reexamine ideas such as shelter, home, and space.
Although the arrangement of the works seems to engage with the viewer as a body in space, forcing us to weave our way through the works like some sort of dreamy lumber yard maze, the pieces themselves are very much concerned with construction, architecture, and material. Godoy is interested in what construction is supposed to do, and his sculptures, installations, and drawings reflect architecture’s utopic and dystopic possibilities. For example, the largest installation featured a huge lightbox that reflects the potential verticality of the wooden structure, the height, ephemerality, and delicacy that an ordinarily sturdy material such as wood can achieve. In that same tangle of materials, Godoy uses tiny shards of wood and inconsistent paint patches; it’s a fascinating contrast.
Kind of mad at myself for not climbing Godoy’s work, I went next door to Black Dragon Society to enjoy a much different viewing experience. Nick Lowe’s Just Us consists of four works of densely-packed paintings, each tiny section labored and worked on until saturated with pictorial meaning. Although the subject matter is quite traditional, Lowe takes note from the early 20th-century avant garde and uses color and line to communicate individual perspective as well as form. Each tiny brushstroke or color scheme or pattern is a whole other painting in and of itself, which is what makes Lowe’s work so satisfying.
After seeing such successful and unique shows, I ambled around the market – what I do everywhere – and wondered what I could make with fermented bean paste. It was a good day.
NOTE: On the Gustavo Godoy photos, all photo credits go to Joshua White.