Los Angeles based artist Kristen Liu-Wong’s art is violent, sexual, colorful, and precise. She paints figures ambiguous enough to allow the viewer to place whoever they want in the center of her often chaotic scenes. Her layers of patterning build on top of each other to give a framework for her exploding color palette and graphic subjects. Tropes in her work include voyeurism, blue and white asian porcelain vases, and pop references. She creates these intricate works at a small desk in her Hollywood apartment, finishing many pieces in a matter of days.
Her paintings draw you in with color and pattern, only afterwards making you face the reality of their content. After bargaining with the surface aesthetic you must now witness the scene. Once you dive into the paintings you see that the subjects look removed and dead in their eyes. The work often features strong female characters and even scenes from the future where her subjects worship robot overlords. Leisure and commodity adorn her paintings. Her subjects are often lounging by a bath or pool, drinking, smoking, enjoying, and not bothered by the blood running down them. They disregard the violence almost to a point of celebration and continue to exist, enthralled in their paradises. Grotesque bodies confront us and in these works you must enjoy and accept the things that are usually hidden in representations of the human species. Portrayed is a brightly colored, but dark future that awaits us. Wong’s themes and depictions are reminiscent of the Ero guro nansensu movement in early 20th century Japan. Ero guro nansensu, is a Japanese combination of English words stemming from “erotic, grotesque, and nonsense”.
While many of Wong’s works have bizarre content, she is further experimenting with nonsensical spacial relations, such that objects will intersect in unnatural ways. Wong is obviously not after realism here, but she does want to inspire wonder, confusion, and gut reaction. Through her commissioned work she renders the fantasy worlds of her patrons. In her signature style she completed a piece for a dentist, who was very specific that all the dental tools and instruments in his piece be accurate.
Wong has gallery bookings for the next year and has an extensive social media following. Her popularity grows as she attracts attention from a wide audience base. So what makes her work resonate with so many? Her subjects bleed, fornicate, give in to vices, and lay about. Wong confronts the animal in all of us. Her paintings present humans as natural things. The futuristic aspect suggests that even with technological advancements we will not escape what we are, biological creatures. Structured grids in the background of her works stand in as the the unchanging rules of the physical world. Whether it is the guts spilling out of a fish or a person, we are confronted with the fact that we are fragile and chase simple pleasures.
Kristen Liu-Wong’s work will be featured in the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) show at Ruckus Gallery in Philadelphia, PA on November 5th 2016. Ruckus Gallery is centered around functional glass art but is not your average pipe shop. The pieces they show are hand made, beautiful, and complex. It just so happens you can also smoke weed out of them. While Ruckus Gallery centers around 3D glass work, this is not the first time they will be showing 2D work. Ruckus Gallery director, Terasina Bonanini, pairs more traditional forms of contemporary art alongside the glasswork as a way to encourage visitors to experience the show through specific frameworks. Bonanini is a long time fan of Wong’s work and believes that her patterned, sometimes explicit paintings will mesh well with the glass work being presented in the show.
*Gallery Images Courtesy of Ruckus Gallery
By: MP Knowlton