Located above the historic Chopin Theatre on West Division, Lloyd Dobler Gallery kicked off the fall season with vibrant new paintings from philosopher turned artist, James Kao. “Ways of World Making” features work from his latest series “Pantomimes”. Kao’s paintings represent the root of the title, “Pantomimes”, meaning a group that imitates all.
Taking cues from the aesthetic philosophies of Nelsen Goodman and the artist’s own, Kao builds a world based on surroundings, the paintings on view create an overly organic universe and ethereal escape. In an interview with Elaine Bleakney of At Length Magazine, Kao explains that he puts great focus on simile and metaphor. His work concentrates on color and energy to reveal the vernaculars of the world, giving a sense of other worldliness in his paintings to his audience. He takes in the elements of the world, reprocesses them, and then represents them.
At the entryway of Lloyd Dobler is a muffled oval form layered with energetic spots that resemble a candy dish of mauve, blue, brown and hot orange. Apertures (2009, seen above) is an introduction leading into Kao’s world. Shallows (2009, seen directly below), referred to as the Untitled painting in At Length interview, is the only large-format work included in the exhibition. The 72 X 78 oil on canvas could be a satellite photograph of earth or the cross-sectional of a cell examined from a microscope. Kao’s ability to expand his subject within a set space gives the effect of a never-ending environment. The layers a light green wash, to vein like lines of blue and pink, pattered discs of orange, brown and ochre channel all things natural. Shallows demonstrates Goodman’s aesthetics where art cannot be definitely defined. All elements of art create a common knowledge to form an ordinary experience.
Across the room is Glyphs II (2009, seen above at right), a smaller cross-section exhibiting a more child-like approach with splatters of color and shapes within an outlined circular format. Both Shallows and Glyphs II standout as they are direct examples of Kao’s work to envelop the viewer so they fall into his created world. When viewing these two paintings, Kao achieves a unique perception: a bird’s eye view and microscopic focus are simultaneous. This is a revelation that is not seen with other works in the exhibition.
On view in the gallery’s “Project Alcove” is Draft (2009, seen above). Deserving of this distinct location, this painting exhibits new elements from the rest of “Ways of World Making”. The work has a strong textural quality of paint and integrates figural elements. There is a balance between the earthly tones, sky blues and red figural shapes. Showing some influence of figurative expression, Draft is reminiscent of early work by Bob Thompson. This work marks a departure from the above-the-clouds motif present in other paintings in the “Pantomimes” series.
"Ways of World Making" displays the evolution of Kao’s process and theories. From the expansive, large world view to the small, texturally dense and sprightly creations, the built landscape Kao has created is expressive and beyond the ordinary experience.
--Robyn Farrell Roulo
(all photos by Robyn Farrell Roulo, courtesy of the artist and Lloyd Dobbler)