In recent years, X-ray technology has revealed new stories beneath layers of paint in long-studied art, but Jenny Wu’s art leaves nothing hidden. The very nature of her work reveals each step of the creative process.
Wu, visiting assistant professor of fine arts at Trinity College, will display her abstract sculptural paintings at the Widener Gallery in the Austin Arts Center from September 25 through October 23.
The exhibition title, Otherly, refers to the state of being something else, which embodies many facets of Wu’s work. Thematically, Wu’s titles allude to notions of otherness due to ethnicity, political differences, or personal histories. The works include such titles as When You Are Disappointed, Try to Lower Your Expectations and A Set of Lies That Have Been Agreed On. Wu will discuss her work at an opening reception September 28, at 4:30 p.m.
Through her creative process, Wu transforms paint from a flat medium to a palpable, malleable material. She pours paint, slices through its layers, and then manipulates these cross-sections to create sculptural compositions on wood panels. Once sealed within a thick, smooth resin coating, they call to mind a timeless permanence.
“My sculptural paintings explore composition, color, expertise, control, chance, and surprise,” said Wu, chair for Touchstone Foundation for the Arts in Washington, D.C. “They acknowledge the sensational and perceptual properties of materiality and then transform the materials, from their original forms and purpose, to present them within new contexts.”
Wu’s process renders the original poured painting unrecognizable. The resulting patterns display repeated but subtly changing timelines of her process, measuring change and progress over time and coalescing into new, cohesive wholes.
As physical objects, they expand the traditional limitations of painting as two-dimensional, resulting in a novel medium that defies categorization. As visual images, her work is alternately reminiscent of op art, color field painting, landscape imagery, quilt making, or weaving, yet it is none of these.
Wu’s use of paint layers stems from personal experience. A decade ago, she scraped away layers of paint while making a traditional landscape painting. And, while visiting Rome, she saw layers upon layers of posters stuck to walls.
A key component of the exhibition is an interactive, collaborative art project.
At the Widener Gallery, tiny cubes comprised of segmented slices of Wu’s poured paint, will sit atop a pedestal for visitors to take, bring back to their homes, and document with a photograph. The photographs are included in an ever-growing online gallery, where tiny cubes can be seen resting on leaves or windowsills, traversing nature atop a hiking stick, or interacting with other works of art in galleries.
The inclusive project, like Wu’s sculptural paintings, carries themes of regeneration and interconnectedness, as each fragment takes on a life of its own while becoming a part of a new online community.
Wu has exhibited nationally and internationally at Denise Bibro Fine Art in New York, NY; American University Museum in Washington, D.C.; Huntington Museum of Art in Huntington, WV; Reece Museum in Johnson City, TN; Vilnius Academy of Arts in Lithuania; and Czong Institute for Contemporary Art in South Korea.
Born in Nanjing, China, Wu holds a B.A. from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Studio Art and Architectural Studies, and an M.F.A. in Studio Art from American University.
The Widener Gallery is free and open to the public on weekdays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.