The saying “home is where the heart is” very rarely relates to contemporary art. And though the works featured here are not directly about home, they are informed to some degree by immediate family,relationships and experiences that stem from it. In a global spectrum of east meets west these five artists come from genres ranging from Chinese Avant Garde to lowbrow painting, from surrealism to contemporary portraiture, to name a few. The paintings, mixed media works and digital media stills of artists: Song Dong, Brooke Grucella, Seonna Hong, Aaron Holz and Zhang Xiaogang exemplify the diversity with which the artists’ loved ones have become not only the subject for the works, but also at times part of the process, as well as a platform to tell a story that becomes increasingly universal.
I recall visiting the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco a couple of years ago to see Song Dong’s massive solo exhibition of works made with his family members as subjects, as well as a massive installation that incorporated decades worth of of family possessions as material. His work is deeply personal, with a strong narrative thread, and truly draw you into his world with their reverence and profoundly flawless execution. Zhang Xiaogang’s works from his series Bloodlines uses other family portraits as a vehicle for conveying the experiences of his immediate family that they experienced as he came of age during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Each piece in this series has a thin red line that weaves throughout the composition, symbolizing the connection of heritage and family.
Paintings by Seonna Hong, Brooke Grucella and Aaron Holz included here exemplify other forms of using family members as subjects, or the dynamics and experiences of the relationships as content in the works. While Seonna Hong says the little girl figure in her painted works is her “animus” and not a portrait of her daughter, she does clarify that her experience in raising her daughter gives rise to much of the imagery of her beautifully rendered works. Brooke Grucella has used multimedia painted works to demonstrate the relational dynamics with those closest to her for many years. Her works tend to focus on communication patterns, as well as the emotions and what is left unsaid. These works in their stylization nearly become character studies. Aaron Holz’s multimedia paintings are generally informed by the people and places of his environment, oftentimes reaching back into his earlier years. By using a uniquely developed textural surface and filmy resin coating, the hyperreal and intensely honest way in which he conveys his subjects carries a haunting softness.