Differential Ontology: Visually and Philosophically Compelling Group Exhibition
Wonzimer Gallery, Los Angeles
Closed July 10th
Written by Genie Davis
When you merge a sense of spiritual transcendence with an art exhibition, you get Differential Ontology, an immersive viewing experience curated by Khang B. Nguyen, who also includes several works of his own in the thoughtful and thought-provoking exhibition. According to Nguyen “This show is inspired by this idea: In the changing of perspective, the different/the Other does not necessarily cause division in society. Individuals can come together not only by finding what we have in common. Solidarity can also be found in encompassing and being constituted by our relationship to the Different and the Other.”
The artists he selected for the show he says had “works fit the show’s concept. When selecting artists, I consider diversity, gender equality, and variety and cohesion of the pieces.” He chose well.
In the center of the gallery, suspended from the ceiling, viewers can traverse the circumference of a massive sculptural work by Alicia Piller, “Along the wavy edge of this penumbra. Emerging from the depths. Transformation trajectories.” This is a vast piece constructed from varied mixed media including latex and Mylar balloons, resin, beads, plastic, metal, wood, plastic tubing, and precious stones such as olive jade and carnelian. There is a depth and weight to the piece that transcends its size and substance; it has the feel of an alien being in the process of the transformation the artist discusses in the work’s lengthy title. Created in 2020, the work is a perfect metaphor for emergence – whether from lockdown or emotional devastation, and the ways in which one can evolve.
Equally vast and compelling is Kim Abeles’ vast and glowing wall sculpture, which was originally created in 2011 by Abeles and 109 participants in shelters and workshops. Titled “Pearls of Wisdom: End the Violence,” the work features opalescent “pearls” created from a variety of mixed media by the participants. It was created as a part of a 2-year program through a nonprofit organization A Window Between Worlds, utilizing art to end domestic violence. The entire project involved some 800 participants. Abeles writes that “Using the metaphor of valuable pearls formed inside oysters in response to a harmful irritant, participants transformed memories of domestic pain into objects and shared texts.”
It’s a seminal work using tools such as mylar paper, yarns ribbons, and raffia through a natural progression to cover these materials with plaster casting “bandages.” Each pearl contains a symbol of the abuser, with the story of the abuse written on mirror-mylar, contained, and layered with yarn and threads, plaster gauze, plaster, and paint. Knowing nothing about the work before viewing, nonetheless it emitted a palpable sense of peace, with a seminal calm seemingly embedded within its opalescent loveliness.
Richelle Gribble’s two works, “Land, Sea, Air” and “Biodiversity” are mandala-like creations, of ink, graphite, and colored pencil used for the former work, and watercolor on wooden puzzle for the latter. Both offer a wheel of life on earth, and its myriad creatures and wonders – a tribute to the interconnectedness of all that’s kind, lush, and lovely. Similarly, the more mysterious mandala-like works of Nguyen himself, “Image in the Polished Mirror, created with oil, wax pastel, and chakra crystals (amazonite, amethyst, fluorite, pyrite); and “Leaping Through Moments of Becoming,” created with oil, graphite, ink, and wax pastel on canvas. Both offer a meditative examination of life itself. Of “Image in the Polished Mirror,” he writes “In the polished mirror/ She knows herself,/At once she is the knower and the known/…At once she is the beginning and the end…”
Even more mysterious is the light-filled, amorphous grace of Maru Garcia’s “Membrane Tensions (Symbiogenesis I)” a sculptural work created of delicate, almost ephemeral bacterial cellulose and wire, and shown here along with two other fine wall works from the artist.
Ibuki Kuramochi’s peformance video “Internal Strings” will have an in-person presentation at the exhibition’s July 10th closing event. The haunting video work evokes body image, the String Theory, and a golden color palette that mutates throughout. While visually richly different, another exploratory video work is also on display, Kayla Tange’s “Sacred Wounds,” which includes a collaboration between the artist and Talon McKee with original music by Roger Kim and makeup by Calvin Chan. The work explores cultural history and wounds with a transformative message.
Eli Joteva’s “Zero Point Field” is a unique, shifting work that lures the viewer into a long and worthwhile viewing. Suspended from the ceiling, the work uses white light, plexiglass, diffraction grating, and point cloud data contained in a circular frame. Joteva creates a mesmerizing and otherworldly piece that could be seen as a fragment of the collective soul or perhaps a visualization of the heartbeat of the universe. Yes, really.
Isabel Beavers’ “to bloom on scorched earth” lies on the floor and has a more physically grounded presence outside its placement. Using animation and sound, this sculptural installation is another moving, “living” presence, and could be seen as what comes after man, or as an outgrowth of a more AI-like intelligence.
Additional striking works, both sculptural and wall art, are exhibited from artists Linnea Spransy, Mei Hotta, Patrick Nickell, Russell Crotty, Takeshi Kanemura, Brian Randolph, and Carla Jay Harris, the latter of whom takes viewers beneath dark ocean depths.
The exhibition notes state that “‘differential ontology’ understands the inner nature of beings to not be constituted independently of and in isolation from others…[it] is a term that may be found particularly in the works of Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, process philosophy, and the ideas of “emptiness” and “dependent origination” in Buddhism.”
It is a profound experience, an exhibition that will leave viewers feeling as if they have entered a more meditative and contemplative space far outside the context of daily life. And don’t we deserve to enter such space, isn’t it even necessary, after the last 18 months?
On view through July 10th in the gallery and continuing as viewable online in the 3D exhibition space.
621 S. Olive St, Los Angeles, 90014