The Painted Screen
October 30 - December 20, 2015
In one of art history’s most essential anecdotes, Pliny the Elder recounts the competition between the Ancient Greek painters Zeuxis and Parrhasius, where the skill of each artist was judged through a veracity to realism. Zeuxis’ painted grapes attract actual birds, but Parrhasius’ painted curtain trumps his competitor into attempting to pull back the rendered drapery. For Lacan, the victory rests with Parrhaius not primarily due to his skill, but in his choice of subject matter; Zeuxis accepts the believability of the curtain because he was more drawn to the possibility of the revealing the hidden. Milano Chow’s graphite drawings provide a similar pull of attraction through their closed doors, suggesting entry to a psychologically charged space.
These carefully rendered doors are framed by curling and undulating ornate moldings that heighten the presence of trompe l’oeil gestures, along with the fly-away corners of paper ephemera stuck in one door. The domestic elements of a light switch and a chain-lock invite the viewer to imagine physical interactions with the works, transforming everyday gestures into metaphors for insight and illumination. Chow combines the tool of trompe l’oeil along with techniques culled from commercial illustration and graphic design to investigate the relationships between modes of representation.
Chow breaks the guile of illusionistic by playing with scale and she consciously points towards the act of pictorial composition by building up a work by the arrangement of collaged elements. As they conjure the atmosphere of surrealism without explicitly rendering a particular moment, the drawings allow for the tension of anticipation and a perception of suspended time.
While the works project a sense of timelessness, more specific elements also reveal a concern with the concept of the fashionable. A Thonet chair, an accordion mirror, mod clothing: these details point towards a visual analysis of the function of taste and the elusive nature of a prevailing vogue. Even though her source material spans a wide range, including fashion photography, movies stills, set design, and vintage advertising, Chow achieves a visual unity. The word style finds its origins in the stylus, etymologically linking distinctive appearances to the pen; in a parallel synthesis, Chow’s hand brings together her ability to define a highly personal style.
Milano Chow lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She received her BFA from Barnard College and attended The Skowhegen School of Painting and Sculpture. Recent exhibitions include Young Art, LA (solo); Mary Mary Gallery, Glasgow; and Wallspace Gallery, NY. This is her first solo exhibition in NY.