Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann
May 5-28 2022
Opening Reception: Thursday, May 5, 5:30-7:30 PM
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is thrilled to announce Land’s End, an exhibition of new work by Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann, on view during the month of May. Mann’s mix-mixed works are studies in visual, cultural, and processual difference, coming together as maximal and enchanting scenes that also articulate something powerful and coherent.
As in past works, these newest pieces create a push and pull between abstraction and representation, with floral motifs and elements of the landscape both resisting and dissolving into abstract passages and marks. Land’s End departs, however, from earlier bodies of work in that they are, according to Mann, more thoroughly autobiographical in nature, “relating more specifically to my lived experience, my personal relationship to art history, Chinese and Taiwanese histories, and especially cultural estrangement.” With the notion of the “land” tied deeply to understandings of cultural and national identity, Mann, who is biracial, carefully unpacks how her practice is both situated within and negotiates between the Chinese and Western canons of landscape painting.
In early 2021, Mann stumbled upon a cache of paintings in her parent’s basement that she had created while studying traditional sumi painting in Taiwan as a teenager; a few were even made by her mother. She hung these traditional, highly repetitive studies of bamboo and chrysanthemums, among other subjects, on her studio wall as a reference point until, one day, she began cutting them up and collaging them directly into some of the newer works. A glimpse of cherry blossoms on rice paper, for example, is evident in the upper right-hand corner of Fog (2021). Mann recalls that she began this practice shortly after the Atlanta spa shootings, an instinctive assertion of herself and of a traditional Asian art form.
Mann typically begins her works by pouring inks and diluted paints onto a sheet of paper. Once they have dried, the resultant rivulets and pools become a framework for further additions, including more inkwork, painting, collage, and printed elements. Her use of multiple media and palpably different techniques enriches the complexity and the tension of her mythical worlds, an effect that is both paralleled and elevated by elements of fracture and fragmentation that distinguish the works in Land’s End.
These dynamics can be seen in a piece like Penumbra (2021), which presents densely layered, unfurling planes of uniquely stylized and reworked symbols and gestures, many informed by distinct cultural vocabularies of vision and the visual. A riot of color comprising shades of yellow, green, and blues weaves its way through substrates of grayscale. Floral elements as well as scrolls—which are fundamental to Buddhist imagery but also Western victory paintings—are articulated through delicate detailing and the conscientious use of negative space, while expressive brushstrokes and scattered markings discharge a frenetic energy. Collaged bits of her older paintings on rice paper are integrated throughout, underscoring the way in which Penumbra is fragmented not only by formal elements but also by time, as if the artist were “collaborating with my teenage self, or with my mother, twenty years ago.”
Despite the apparent sense of explosiveness and tension, this and other works maintain an inward momentum, which can be traced almost like a Mobius strip. Here, the center holds.
Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and earned a BA from Brown University in 2005 followed by an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2009. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Fulbright to Taiwan and a residency at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. Mann has exhibited across North America, Europe, and Asia, including most recently at the Kreeger Museum in Washington D.C., and her work has been cited in the Washington Post, Harper’s Magazine, Art Ltd., and Hyperallergic, among other outlets. This will be her second solo exhibition at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.