“In the studio, childhood memories in a small ancient city, observations of contemporary cultural and social forces, mythological and historical references, the desire to breach the language decorum… countless sources come and go during the process, but it is the intimate sensation that gives the work its plot.”
— Fei Li
FIRST STREET GALLERY is pleased to announce Chaos, In An Almost Classical Mode, a solo exhibition of mixed media paintings and drawings by Fei Li, the gallery’s first presentation of her work.
The exhibition will be on view from May 21 through June 15 with an opening reception on Thursday, May 23, 6–8pm.
Fei Li’s latest work is a painter’s attempt to create an encyclopedia which visualizes the absurdity and tragedy of man facing irresistible forces in the tide of time, and which examines the capacity for chaos inside a rigorous and coherent structure. Li purposefully uses small oil pastel sticks on large surfaces as a metaphor for the artist taking her arms against destiny, so to speak, confronting the impossibility. An immense network of relationships is woven into a labyrinth. Her approach, is oblique, like walking a tightrope between visual dynamics and pandemonium. Inspired by underlying correspondences between James Joyce’s Ulysses and Homer’s Odyssey, the paintings in this exhibition take the structure of historical artworks as their point of departure. For example, in the diptych painting Anomie, the left panel is based on Persian miniature paintings from The Shahnameh of Shah Tahmasp while the right panel is based on Bellini’s Saint Jerome Reading. And in the painting Past Continuous, the artist uses the ancient Chinese calligrapher Huaisu’s cursive script of an Indian Buddhist Sutra (Sutra of Forty-two Chapters) to fabricate a pictorial landscape space.
Born in China, Fei Li lives and works in Brooklyn. The artist’s reality has been chaotic and shifting since she was a young perceiver, living inside a huge traditional Minnan House yet crowded with seven other families, growing up with an acute sense of disorientation and divided identity. Thereafter Li has constantly moved and traveled. She studied with Lon Clark at the San Francisco Studio School and in 2012 moved to New York City, a vortex where the seething metropolitan life and the artist’s solitude converge.
Her works have been shown internationally in museums and galleries, including Spartanburg Museum and Whatcom Museum in the United States, Museum of Abbaye de Léhon in France, Asian Culture Center in South Korea and Chinese European Art Center in China. Li is also the awardee of numerous funded artist’s residencies, fellowships and grants including Dumfries House in Scotland; Drake Arts Centre in Kokkola, Finland; The Alfred & Trafford Klots International Program in Léhon, France; Kunstnarhuset Messen International A.I.R Program in Alvik; Jon Imber Painting Fellowship in Vermont Studio Center, and Queens Arts Fund New Works Grant.