The space of the first floor is empty save a generic IKEA-like bed frame, whose king-sized mattress has been made spectacular by Chen Hui-chiao, who has covered every inch in orange table tennis balls. Each ball, the endpoint of a short strand of seven fake pearl beads arranged in a size progression, is topped with a tiny white bead and gold star that renders In the End Is the Beginning (2006), when seen from the upper gallery, magical and glistening like something from a children’s story.
The room is painted dark green and the walls bear an installation titled Here and Now: Winter Sun (2009) in which the reflective, smooth steel circles of various sizes are arranged to hint at a cosmic pattern of stars and planets swirling around the dramatic bedecked bed. Table tennis balls seem to bob in each steel disk as if on the surface of so many calm lakes. These plastic forms never lie smack in the middle of the disks, and the title helps to conjure abstract clock faces, all set to a different hour, or perhaps each marking the time of a different remote world.
Taiwanese artist Hui-chiao's work joins that of Pakistani Hamra Abbas and Filipina Ringo Bunoan in the second phase of this three-part show of Asian women artists that supercurator Hou Hanrou has organized under the banner Everyday Miracles (Extended) at SFAI's Walter and McBean Galleries. The international curator rose in the 1990s, years of the international art boom, a bromide perhaps for all the Koons and Murakami baubles littering the market, and in customary fashion, Hanru's conceptually anodyne exhibition spreads itself geographically from the Chinese Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, to greater Asia participation-wise, and to the American West coast, venue-wise.
Something of Hui-chiao's delicate magic is retained in Bunoan’s collaboration with Gary Ross Pastrana, The Other Half (2007-2008), a series of eight prints hung in the adjacent gallery. Having collected objects with missing pairs, the absent halves were recreated by hand to evoke a poetically imperfect mirroring. These small photographs of small things offer a quiet meditation on the aura of such quotidian objects as contact lenses, earrings, socks, gloves, and salt and pepper shakers.
Finally drawn upstairs by a mechanical hum and the green glow of a neon squiggle that reads “as good as the real thing” in handwriting that devolves to merely legible as if scrawled in a fit of physical pleasure, I find a sign illuminating an altogether different kind of fantasyland. In Abbas’ Love Yourself (2009), dildos shaped as colorful fighter jets, missiles, bombs, and bullets—fetishized objects of war, ready for use—absurdly vibrate, buzz, and travel over a tabletop like so many wound mechanical bunnies and puppies in a shopping mall toy store.
- Joanna Szupinska
Image: Chen Hui-chiao, Here and Now: Winter, 2009. Double bed, table-tennis balls, and beads. Courtesy of the artist.
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