Joo Lee Kang and Peri Schwartz Press Release

Joo Lee Kang: Troubled Paradise
Peri Schwartz: Composing Paintings
September 2 – October 4 at Gallery NAGA

Gallery NAGA’s 38th season begins with two artists– Joo Lee Kang and Peri Schwartz–working with the idea of the still life in two very distinct ways.

Joo Lee Kang: Troubled Paradise and Peri Schwartz: Composing Paintings run from September 2 through October 4. A reception for the artists and public will be held on Friday, September 5 from 6 to 8 pm.

Kang’s work appears as delicate, ornamental drawings presented in crisp white frames. If one looks more closely, however, the drawings reveal grotesque and mutated flora and fauna. Often presented as bouquets or table arrangements one might see in the Victorian era, they teem with three-winged butterflies, two-headed caterpillars, and featherless roosters. The line separating animals from plants has all but disappeared. There’s a sense of foreboding and darkness inherent in these drawings, done with a Bic ballpoint pen. In the newest work, Kang examines the effect the Fukushima nuclear disaster had on the waters separating Korea from Japan. Shells, flowers, mutated animals and sea life — including a sea urchin shrouded in a scrap of plastic — become the basis of the new compositions.

Kang comments on her work, “By drawing mutated animals and plants, I question nature’s place in the modern context. What is nature? What is natural? The subjects I portray in my drawings reflect the ambiguity of the possible definitions. They show that I feel at a loss to describe what is natural in our present day. Cross-breeding, genetic engineering—the ways in which humans can control and reconfigure the natural process—become more abundant as technology advances. Should the results of such human developed processes be construed as a part of nature, or should nature exist independently of human progress?”

Joo Lee Kang was born in South Korea and educated in Boston, a 2011 graduate of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University program. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2013 SMFA Traveling Fellowship, a St. Botolph Club Artist Grant, a Massachusetts Cultural Council Award in Drawing, and a Dana Pond Award in Painting. This past spring, she was the artist-in-residence at the Inside-Out Art Museum in Beijing, China and the Haslla Museum in South Korea.

Peri Schwartz uses her studio as her subject matter. In the studio, she creates stage sets using books, bottles, and the architecture of the space. She is constantly arranging, re-arranging, adding, and subtracting until the configuration is right. These still lifes are simply a jumping off point for Schwartz. While her finished paintings resemble these complicated arrangements, they teeter on the edge of near abstraction.

In the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, John Seed, a professor of art and art history at Mt. San Jacinto College in California, interviews Schwartz about her work. He asks, “How do you achieve a balance between abstraction and representation in your work?” Schwartz answers, “My teachers at Boston University gave me a great training in working from the model and observing directly from life. They also taught me how the masters used their subject in an abstract way. I never was happy inventing a subject and don’t like using photographs. I was left with having to work directly from something. I try to take whatever subject I choose and turn it into an image that has both a sense of reality and abstraction. As I mentioned, I move things around continuously, which gives the paintings a visual history. As I get closer to finishing the painting I make decisions that are not necessarily realistic. I might leave an object or shape in the painting even though it is no longer in the setup.”

Seed notes, “Peri Schwartz is a New York artist whose paintings, prints, and drawings focus on composition and the interplay of color, light, and space. A formalist who has a musical sense of pictorial harmonies, Schwartz’s compositions get their rigor from the presence of an implied grid, which she offsets and punctuates with painterly gestures and harmonies of color and value. Her most recent oils – studio interiors and still lifes of translucent bottles and jars — have the expressive vitality of perfectly executed chamber music. Schwartz’s works move between representation and abstraction in a way that allows her the expressive freedom she needs to make each picture resonate and achieve its own ‘rightness.’”

Peri Schwartz’s work can be found in many public and museum collections including the British Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the Corcoran Gallery, the Fogg Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, and the New York Public Library.