Say I Am: Lauren Frances Adams, Caroline Wells Chandler, Pixy Liao, and Yvonne Osei

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September 16, 2016 – October 29, 2016

Opening, September 16, PLUG Projects presents Say I Am, an exhibition featuring the work of Lauren Frances Adams, Caroline Wells Chandler, Pixy Liao, and Yvonne Osei. These artists address agency and challenge assumptions within a historically patriarchal heteronormative structure. Providing a contrast to the dominant landscape, deviations from expected gendered, cultural, or racial narratives are presented. Whether speaking from one’s experience or for an individual’s right to self determinism, each artist lends a transgressive hand to support new ways of thinking.

Lauren Frances Adams earned her BFA at UNC-Chapel Hill, and completed her MFA in 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University. She lives and works in Baltimore. She has exhibited at Nymans House National Trust (Sussex, England),  The Walters Museum (MD), The Mattress Factory (PA), and Smack Mellon (NY). She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and has held residencies at the Cite in Paris and the Sacatar Foundation in Brazil. She is the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Award, and a 2016 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award. Her work has been reviewed in Frieze Magazine, The Baltimore Sun, Artslant, and Hyperallergic.  Lauren is a founding member of Ortega y Gasset Projects, a project space in New York.

Caroline Wells Chandler’s brightly colored hand-crocheted works explore notions of queerness and sexuality as well as the art historical canon. His characters are radically queer, and his representations of gender declare queerness as the normative state. Chandler completed his foundation studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and received his BFA cum laude from Southern Methodist University in 2007. He has shown at numerous institutions including: Roberto Paradise (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Lord Ludd (PA), Art League Houston (TX), Zurcher Studio (NY), Field Projects (NY), Vox Populi (PA), Sanctuary (PA), N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art (MI), Open Gallery (TN), and the Stieglitz Museum (‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands) among others. Chandler is a 2011 MFA recipient in painting at the Yale School of Art where he was awarded the Ralph Mayer Prize for proficiency in materials and techniques. He lives and works in New York.
Pixy Liao was born and raised in Shanghai, China and currently resides in Brooklyn. She is a recipient of NYFA Fellowship in photography, En Foco’s New Works Fellowship and LensCulture Exposure Awards, etc,. She has done artist residencies at Pioneer Works, Light Work, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Center for Photography at Woodstock, and Camera Club of New York. Liao’s photographs have been exhibited internationally, including He Xiangning Art Museum (China),  Asia Society (Houston), Flower Gallery (NY),  First Draft Gallery (Sydney), VT Artsalon (Taiwan), Kips Gallery (Korea), The Running Horse Contemporary Art Space (Lebanon),  Format (UK), Noorderlicht (Netherland), etc. Liao holds a MFA in photography from University of Memphis.

Yvonne Osei is a German-born Ghanaian artist living in the United States who is hyperaware of her hybridity. She describes herself as an outsider artist making insider art, referencing her West African roots while acknowledging her close to six years living in St. Louis, Missouri.

Walking the West Bottoms

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Something draws us to the West Bottoms. People come here to commemorate important life events, weddings and graduations. They use its tall brick walls as a backdrop. Maybe they want something solid and unchanging to frame a fleeting moment. Maybe they don’t realize that change is the very definition of the West Bottoms, the only constant in its turbulent history.

The Bottoms have seen native tribes and displaced Indians, traders and fur trappers, immigrants and escaped slaves, cattle and livestock on trains, merchants and travellers on steamboats. From the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, steel workers sent the tanks floating downstream that would eventually land on foreign beaches and defeat the Axis powers. And, oh, the cattle. You could once look in one direction and hardly see anything else, while a whole city of houses and churches, bridges and elevated rails, flour mills, schools, hotels and train depots stretched to the foot of the bluffs behind your back. Most of this was washed away by fast-rising water. The water is a constant too. After every flood some things are repaired or built again. Others are forever lost or abandoned.

We come here now for other reasons. Back-alley bars with live jazz slinking through port hole windows. Fugue-inducing 3 AM concerts with ten drummers and all manner of electronic instruments.  Burnt ends slow cooked and drenched in a sauce of tomato and molasses. Grown men riding angry geldings. Giant pork tenderloins between crappy wood laminate walls. Framed photographs and vibrant paintings in stark white rooms. Moscow mules in a copper mug. People live in old flour mills, work in grain warehouses with charred beams and open elevator shafts. People come here to buy, to sell, and to explore. People come here to create things.

I’m walking down the street on a March day, sky electric blue. It’s still cold, especially when the clouds swirl over the sun, or I walk in the shade of the brick buildings. Every so often the wind picks up and pelts my face with tiny grains of sand and loose gravel. A few bikers idle as an orange train clatters by. A building curves to match the bend of the tracks below, ghosted layers of paint still visible on its brick facade. Rail spurs reflect the sun. Something draws us to the West Bottoms, something far more than nostalgia. We’re drawn here by the excitement, the rarity of finding a place so specific and so distinctly urban, yet so undetermined, expansive and full of possibility.

Words and pictures by Gavin Snider