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Jes Fan at The Museum of Arts and Design

Fan’s work straddles the line between the mundane and unexpected, the ordinary and the peculiar. The exhibition as a whole raises more questions than answers. Fan has made it clear in past interviews that identity (and coming to terms with one’s identity) are central to their art practice, and in this exhibition they explore identity and its social constructs. Tucked away in a small room on the sixth floor, the pastel pink walls are conspicuous upon entrance. It is striking in the fact that this color associated with a nursery is so seldom seen in a museum setting.

Fan, Stranded between one act and another, 2016, polished resin, hair

In “Stranded between one act and another,” two hairbrushes are connected by strands of black hair. The sleek lines and luster of the piece bring to mind sculptures by Robert Gober, albeit of the less stark variety. The commonality of a hairbrush and the ideas of femininity and beauty that it conjures become ominous and unsettling. The brushes can no longer serve their function of physically brushing hair, yet they are bound by the arc of shining hair between them, leaving them immobile and helpless.

Fan, Wedged II + III, 2016, resin, silicone, glass

Fan, T4T, 2016, silicone

Other standouts include “Wedged II + III,” and “T4T,”. The Wedged sculptures include small barbells protruding from glass shapes resembling pillows. They stick out in a phallic symbol or flop to the ground; these traditionally metal weights contrast with the delicateness of the glass structures they are held in. There is a feeling of apprehension in the idea that one wrong move and the glass could shatter. In another intriguing sculpture, the pink, silicone barbell “T4T” has melted, as though it couldn’t withstand its own weights. These weights that stereotypically imbue strength and masculinity have withered, creating beautiful curvature; and yes, there is no mistaking the bright pink. Fan’s work draws you in, and begs for a second look; they have expertise at seamlessly combining things that we are not accustomed to seeing together. Whether it be soft and hard, feminine and masculine, or delicate and robust, the pairings create a sense of unease in their divergence. What the exhibition tackles, successfully, is whether or not that unease in uncertainty has to be bad, or if it ultimately can be embraced.

“No Clearance in Niche,” on view at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), showcases the

multimedia work of Jes Fan. The exhibition is part of a series, Fellow Focus, highlighting the

work of Van Lier Fellows at MAD.

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