By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
For her solo debut at Kevin Bruk Gallery, Su-en Wong parodies and pulverizes preconceptions of Asian women in a show that's both brazen and brainy.
Mining the muck of porn fantasy, Wong clones herself in paintings and drawings in which she often appears nude or draped in suggestive schoolgirl regalia, turning the tables on Western stereotypes of Asian women as submissive sex objects.
Wong's exquisitely rendered works mostly depict multiple self-portraits of the artist interacting with her many selves in a squirrelly, adolescent fashion.
Hackworth Ashley's “Thank You, Come Again”: Through February 3. Spinello Gallery, 3436 N Miami Ave, Miami; 305-576-0208, www.spinellogallery.com.
In Light Touch/Baby Chick, a large-scale color-pencil-and-acrylic piece on two panels, a baker's dozen ponytailed Su-ens sporting cheerleader garb appear on their knees against a powder-blue background. They playfully mug at the spectator from the left side of the composition. On the panel to the right, saturated in a hot mustard hue, a pair of Su-ens copulate doggy style while ensconced under a thatch of lush tropical foliage. The one getting nailed sneaks a furtive glance at the ditzy squad across from her.
Next to it, Secluded Beach/Icing on the Cake is a jarring bathmat-size piece that exudes a much more menacing vibe. The upper panel is almost entirely covered by a bramble of richly colored Venus flytraps suggestive of fanged vaginas. Underneath the carnivorous plants, a solitary Su-en shows up naked and on all fours, muzzled by a ball gag. A line of text adjacent to her buttocks reads, "Love is pretty when love is new."
Goldenrod, a lighthearted yet provocative mural-scale work, seems to be a scathing critique of Websites devoted to Asian Lolitas, among the booming and most profitable niches of Internet porn. A handful of topless Su-ens operate "Sunny Corner," a rickety fruit stand peppered with clever signage touting "Fresh Import!" and "Nice & Sweet."
Although her pieces, at first blush, might seem to be mirroring the clichés of Asian women that the artist appears to abhor, Wong recasts her doppelganger dumplings on a stage where they work out the kinks and lob back their own notions of identity, gender, and rebellion with a sting.
Through her work, Wong who was born in Singapore and came to the United States when she was sixteen seems to be reconciling the experience of growing up in a homogenous culture, a square peg in the American dream.
Forget the subservient China dolls haunting The World of Suzie Wong and The Joy Luck Club. This artist's cookie-cutter characters romp across the same court as Gogo Yubari, the lethally skilled schoolgirl assassin in Kill Bill: Vol. 1.
One of the more striking paintings on exhibit is Yellow Highlighter/Puffball, in which the artist takes a stab at Damien Hirst. In the sprawling two-panel piece, the bottom third of the surface hijacks one of the Brit's polka-dot paintings. Topless Su-ens, clad in plaid Catholic school jumpers, squat and crawl atop Hirst's colored circles as if playing a trippy game of Twister. The figures and dots pop out against the vast background of sunflower yellow. The girls are agog, as a lone Sue-en to the right of the group points into the distance as if she has discovered Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole. Behind her, another Sue-en's fingers dissolve into the cream-color sphere over which she leans.
Dolly, another Hirst-inspired piece, features Wong's posse examining one of the pickled livestock works that catapulted Hirst to international fame. It depicts the girls standing before a vitrine, which houses a slaughtered lamb floating in formaldehyde. The work might be less an homage than a questioning of his approach.
Wong's extraordinary drafting skills, painstaking attention to detail, and subtle nuances of her drawings are beautiful to behold.
Bambi Bambi is one of seven stunning graphite-on-paper works, isolated in a room next to the main gallery, that are a revelation of Wong's impressive talent. In this psychologically freighted piece, eight adolescent Su-ens creep stealthily out of a thicket of bamboo from the upper right corner of the composition, cradling rifles in their hands. On the lower left, a trio of Disney's iconic doe-eyed innocents are lined up in their gun sights. By drawing a bead on Bambi, the artist scores a bull's-eye with her commentary on childhood rebellion and innocence lost.
Wong's arousing exhibit is a feather in Bruk's chapeau. In attracting this type of talent, the dealer finds himself snacking on the competition, at the top of the local gallery scene's food chain.
Upwind at Spinello Gallery, Hackworth Ashley's solo show "Thank You, Come Again" features works that convey an eroticism as dark as the gutter.
The young artist combines a Carlos Castaneda-meets-Max Hardcore aesthetic in his Celebrity Fantasy series, which depicts television and film stars in what might be described as an electrical-shock-to-the-nipples school of painting.
While Ashley was a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2004, the administration spanked him for fixating on imagery of sitcom characters. He depicted them hosing his canvases with rainbows, gems, and dream catchers spewing from their penises. At one point, school officials closeted his paintings, threatening the artist with expulsion.
Most of the work that generated the squawk is on display at Spinello. In Cosby, a garish confection that stands the hair on end, the sitcom-addled savant gives Dr. Huxtable the treatment. A smirking Bill Cosby appears naked from the waist down in front of a log cabin. As he ogles the viewer with a cocked brow, a rainbow shoots ribbonlike out of his limp tenderoni and across the lower part of the picture.
In Ashley's neck-twisting Olsen, the lollipop-head celebrity dangles a dilly as she squats in a stone garden. The boho-chic icon sports a smart pair of pink peep-toe pumps and a rainbow-print tank top. Laser beams shoot upward from her wrinkled willy, activating the large gemstones she holds in each hand. They erupt like fireworks, sending a milky spray skyward.
In one piece, a pointy-eared Frodo reclines nude, squeezing his sack like a gay centerfold model. The gimlet-eyed Hobbit fires a dream catcher from his turgid tally whacker.
Pizza Potter depicts the young wizard floating in deep space over a luminescent green grid. He is shrouded by a rainbow aura emanating from his prepubescent divining rod, and seems to be ruminating over the consequences of sacrificing his virginity to a slice of pepperoni pizza.
Ashley, a native of Tennessee, conjures a hallucinatory, Crowley-like landscape where spilled bodily fluids mix easily with the dark arts. He might make one wonder whether he and his backwoods kinfolk are lacing their 'shine with some 'shrooms.
Whatever the source of his inspiration, one leaves Ashley's show hankering for a dose of the stuff, chased by more of his delightfully depraved work.