Hospitality sweet: Kim-Lee and Pleasants make space
When I dropped by Chroma Projects last weekend, I inadvertently walked in on a Japanese tea ceremony in progress. I was worried I had disrupted the event, but resident artist Kris Iden assured me it was "not so formal," and as if on cue, Chroma owner Deborah McLeod called out from her ringside seat to see if I'd like a bowl of tea.
Iden and McLeod made me feel at home, which was appropriate since the gallery's current exhibition, "Homing Devices," centers on generosity and comfort. The two artists showcased in the main gallery, Hana Kim-Lee and Craig Pleasants, represent two complementary aspects of domesticity. Kim-Lee's airy pencil-on-paper drawings of bowls suggest the warmth of home, while Pleasants focuses on structural elements.
Standing in the center of the gallery is Pleasants's "Metaphorical House," which is the latest iteration of his "Octagonal Living Unit," (OLU) a low-cost structure designed to provide shelter with little environmental impact. Pleasant points out that the addition of corner brackets and a roof would make the easily assembled house earthquake- and hurricane-resistant, which is important since the purchase price of the gallery piece–- $50,000–- will fund the shipment of 10 OLUs to Haiti.
The concept is wonderful, and "The Metaphorical House" has its charms, like three separate doorways and an interior painted to look like a blue sky adrift with clouds, leaves, and seedpods. The exterior color, on the other hand, is an odd pale pink, accented with tomato-red spheres and mauve linear patterns. Pleasants envisions actual OLU occupants painting their houses bright colors and using salvaged materials to construct porches, but his chosen palette for the outside is strange, and his brushstrokes have a slapdash feeling.
Hana Kim-Lee's refined "100 Bowls" series balances Pleasant's rough-and-ready aesthetic. Hanging in five horizontal rows of 20 drawings, Kim-Lee's primarily blue compositions offer ethereal interpretations of white vessels, ranging from shallow bowls to small cups. She skillfully manipulates negative space to suggest edges and create volume, letting the page do as much work as her own marks.
From a distance, the series forms a meditative whole, in which the various bowls speak to each other, some faintly, others with more presence. Seen up close, though, Kim-Lee's marks are more colorful and have a chaotic quality that imbues each individual piece with character.
From a teacup to a tiny house, Kim-Lee and Pleasants offer domestic sustenance.
The exhibition, "Homing Devices," featuring Craig Pleasants's "Metaphorical House" and Hana Kim-Lee's "100 Bowls," is on view through December 23 at Chroma Projects. 418 E. Main St. on the Downtown Mall. 202-0269.
Note: The original version of this story gave the wrong price for the "Metaphorical House." It is $50,000, not $10,000, and the story has been thusly corrected.