Chenhung Chen at Crafton Hills College Art Gallery
By Jacqueline Bell Johnson
Chenhung Chen’s exhibition “Crossings” at Crafton Hills College Art Gallery includes a myriad of work, including sculpture, installation, and works on paper. These works on paper are the first thing you see, hung at the front of the gallery and sorted into series. The Threshold series is made of small paper with staples. Using a stapler, Chen has created simple compositional studies that explore the movement created by process and challenge the viewer to consider object as mark. These small metallic dashes are an actual, physical flow. Another series involves paint, staples, and thread intermingling object, process, and mark making.
Her sculptures operate in the same way, utilizing discarded and obsolete computer parts in combination with knitted metal. There is a legacy of sculpture made from knitted and crocheted wire referenced here. The first to come to mind are Arline Fisch and Ruth Asawa, whose works defied a separation of craft and art, and are at once inclusive: elevating the domestic and the feminine as something worthy of fine art. Chen’s reference goes a step further: citing the male-centric tech industry through a mode of cyber punk construction.
The forms are linear, and carry the same sense of flow as her works on paper. Electronic components weave through the wire mesh, a continuation of a sculptural circuit. The delicacy of the wire as a knitted mesh serves as an anatomical drawing demonstrating the intricacies of the inner workings of functional objects, while simultaneously reinforcing their broken-down state.
Several works consist of hanging wires, strung from wall to wall and/or ceiling. At its simplest, these works are three dimensional drawings. The wire is line in space. The incorporation of computer parts transform these drawings into a power grid. The piece “Crossings” has piles of colored wire snippets lingering under the stretched arches above. There is a tension between the constructed piece and its potential additions. In an overhead installation, the wire supports this floating collection of found objects, a metaphor for the dispersement of information in the information age. To find truth and fact you must search and piece together sources and even then, you are still left with perspective and viewpoint.
The overarching success of Chen’s work is that it requires you to take what you know about an object and discard it. Using immediately recognizable found objects (computer parts, electronic components, hinges, power cords, etc.) is key here. The materials have their own past life, which build context, but ultimately, if you cannot let go of their histories you will not be able to see the sculptural form before you.
Chenhung Chen “Crossings” at Crafton Hills College Art Gallery
Crafton Hills College
11711 Sand Canyon Road
Yucaipa, CA 92399