I Ching in America: Chenhung Chen Renders the Invisible Visible

Chenhung Chen. I Ching in America, Hexagram #32. Shoebox Projects. Photo credit Kristine Schomaker

I Ching in America

Chenhung Chen Renders the Invisible Visible

by Genie Davis


This weekend, Shoebox Projects is hosting a closing reception for Chenhung Chen’s I Ching in America, Hexagram #32 installation.

Like much of this artist’s fascinating work, Chen has woven a web of shapes and forms that are suggestive and fluid, using repurposed and discarded materials such as copper wire and cables.

With her use of this material, wire and cable become abstract figures, sinuous shapes. She conveys new directions for lines and space, and she infuses a very real sense of life and energy into the medium in which she works. Energy is, of course, an interesting concept here, as the original use for some of these objects was to transport and transform energy. What was once perhaps a reined-in power, to harness electricity and utilize it, now seems to have blossomed into something both more chaotic, wild, and beautiful in the gallery space.

Chen is fascinated by the ideas of chaos and order, with technology as both a tool and weapon. There is a very spiritual quality to her work, one which even in the most chaotic of forms and shapes reaches for a sense of peace and balance. During Chen’s residency at Shoebox Projects, she has worked to create an installation that is a part of a new series, I Ching in America. The I Ching’s hexagrams each represent the human condition, and offer insight and understanding into behavior, actions, and consequences.

Chenhung Chen. I Ching in America, Hexagram #32. Shoebox Projects. Photo credit Kristine Schomaker

Her work here with Hexagram #32 includes a sculptural skeleton created from a computer desk and an expansive piece of crocheted electronic fabric of wires and electrical components. It is a technological grid transformed into a new shape; it is energy reborn, vital, and yet at least momentarily stilled. The installation is a kind of touchstone for both change and continuity, destruction and creation; Chen weaves a quilt here, something delicate and fine arising from the harshness of her chosen materials.

According to Chen, “My work is like writing a thesis. I can’t really say any particular thing inspired it rather it is another expansion of my fundamental process to make the invisible, visible. But not just any ‘invisible,’ that which reflects the human condition and with an intention to show the magnificence of Man’s journey.”

There is both an intimacy and a vastness in Chen’s work; the swirls, coils, and lines she weaves both draw the viewer in and then reveal the grandness of the universe itself. Chen is a world traveler, a native of Taiwan now rooted in Los Angeles, and it is perhaps that global perspective which helps to infuse her art with a sense of the “larger picture.” Her work is an amalgam of both spirituality and the detritus and of man, created while struggling to come to terms with the world through technology.

If those technological forms, now being repurposed, are fluid enough to emerge from the tangles and turns Chen weaves, who knows where they might lead us. Harmony, dissonance, inner power, and the transitional nature of the human condition have long fascinated the artist, and she wants these ideas to fascinate the viewer, too.

“I want the viewer to think about this existence, perhaps in a way they haven’t before,” Chen attests.

And surely, this viewer will. The last day to see the installation is during the reception this Saturday December 2nd, from 3-6 at Shoebox Projects at the Brewery Arts Complex in DTLA, 660 South Avenue 21 #3 LA Ca 90031.

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