Lily Wong and Ian Faden
Two together can create a world. “Lunations,” a dual exhibition between Lily Wong and Ian Faden, at Harper’s Chelsea, would seem to be a prime example. In new works on paper, the pair dabble in a form of private ritualism or occultism—in Wong’s case a haunting East Asian-inflected spiritualism; in Faden’s a distinctly queer and music-based Bacchanalia—to carve out an uncanny world from the contours of our own.
The world of Wong’s A Passing Traveler (2021) [pictured] is saturated with symbol and meaning which never quite resolve into a set mythology but induces a sense of unsettled dread and otherworldliness. With three fingers, the emerald-green main figure loosely clutches a handkerchief which drips into a fetid pool between her legs, its surface forming a murky face. The slight curl at the end of her braids echoes the linked pinkies of she and an unseen other, as well as the glowing crescent moon which alights the plane of the wall which separates them, which in turn refers to the glowing and overlarge moon outside the window.
In Faden’s Heaven Knows (2021), the body of a nude flautist seems to disintegrate with the sound of his own playing, a foot whipping around here, an elbow thrown about there. That Bacchic frenzy continues in I Feel Love (2021), in which the central figures are antic and blurred, doubled with the force of the music or their dancing, while a flattened and deity-like face floats overhead in the ambiguous space. The apparition is a recurring motif across both Faden and Wong’s works—in Wong’s Reach Out (2021), the familiar viridescent figure holds a handkerchief imprinted with a face. It’s a fitting synecdoche for this show of works on paper, a testament to the power of two-dimensional depiction to summon or stand in for sublime forces. —Lisa Yin Zhang
Lily Wong, A Passing Traveler, 2021. Acrylic on paper, 62 x 48 inches