Poetics of Landscape: Out of Bounds and In Bounds

Fu Chia-Wen Lien
Amy Chan, Triboro, detail, 2005.

In a world packed with alienating digital images that lack the human touch, the exhibition "Out of Bounds" at Glyndor Gallery in the The Bronx presents new works celebrating hands-on craftsmanship and a humanist response to nature. The project began last year when artists were invited to Glyndor House and the surrounding winter garden of Wave Hill to conceive their art works. The result is an exhibition revealing the magnificence, mystery and sublimity of landscape.

Amy Chan’s Triboro includes images of landmarks from Riverdale, Yonkers and beyond. Chan’s work conveys the charm of naÌve art and the narration in folk art. The strangely named Vargas-Suarez Universal’s vigorous wall drawing Greenhouse Effect in black, white and green makes reference to biology, medicine, space, and astronomy. Derived from the study of foliage and shrubs in Wave Hill, the abstract rendering of color and form somehow reflects the conflict between nature and its human counterforce.

Amy Yoes’ Sightseers Folklore is a pattern painted directly on the wall — and sprawling onto the ceiling — in red, sourcing Greco-Roman painted interiors, 19th century Scandinavian folk traditions, and the marginalia of illuminated manuscripts. The delicate, almost organic line drawing calls attention to the leaves of trees outside the window.

When airplanes and skyscrapers came into our life, landscapes ceased to be viewed only at eye level. With the new generation of computerized technology, the possibilities have changed again of how we experience landscapes. In this exhibition, the topography of the land is transformed in intriguing ways. Located in the stairwell, Geraldine Lau’s Information Retrieval #1118 is a collection of scanned fragmented images from 20 maps of New York state. The free flowing form of the land was composed in vinyl, cut by computer-guided tools and reconfigured like an abstract painting. The organic painterly forms are punctuated by areas of geometric shapes, signifying man-made buildings and constructions.

Another interesting aspect of the show demonstrates how artists document the different phases of landscape with their draftsmanship and hands-on process. This is the moment when we can be appalled by how the human-made world compares with the grandeur of nature. In 37 Days at Wave Hill/Winter 2005, Yvonne Estrada captures the various aspects of the winter garden swirling, splashing, swiping, swinging in vivacious drawings on five walls. Delicate notations of nature are rendered in the symbolic representation of weeds, flowers, and seeds flowing in an amorphous airy garden. In by Jeffrey Gibson’s The Beguiling Pulse, niched under the staircase, the underwater world is illuminated by the fantastic animation of creatures and plants built out of plastic, oil paint, acrylic paint, pigmented silicone, quartz crystals, and mixed media. The intricacy of the details in this piece invites appreciation with innocent eyes of curiosity and patience.

Hilda Shen’s Recurrent River is inspired by the enormity of the Hudson River. Shen layers wax-coated pieces of randomly torn, inky paper to make low-relief sculptural versions of quasi-traditional Chinese landscape paintings. The way she uses the reversed side of the inky paper adds to the spontaneity and chancy elements of her composition, which imparts a complex interplay between figuration and abstraction. The anonymous fingerprints she downloaded from the internet make gnomic connections between the manmade world and nature.

In this exhibition, the emphasis on the hand-made rather than the technological inverts the normal procedure of contemporary image-making. We may perceive a yearning for the lost human touch and for a connection with the landscape — a longing that is somehow answered in the works at Glyndor House.