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Art That Brings a Smile to Your Face

Paul Chan’s new work is fun, first and foremost. At the exhibit, the viewer is confronted by groups of moving figures which dance and cavort: a series of animated tableaux. The figures are inflated by specially designed fans; the overall effect is not unlike what we see outside of the local car washes. As inflated billowy and fast-moving enticements at the car wash always make one smile; similarly Paul Chan’s work is imbued with a playful and campy vibe. Yet this work has a darker side. One telling title: “The happiness of living in the disaster of the western world” : five black clad figures dancing in a round à la Matisse. Heavy stuff, this and oh so topical.

Paul Chan, Pillowsophia. Courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali.

Paul Chan, Le Baigneur. Courtesy of the artist and Greene Naftali.

The dark side is evident throughout the gallery. Pillowsophia (after Ghostface),presents a black hooded grim reaper seemingly perched above us. Le Baigneur is a lone figure sans head. Both Madonna and Child and De Se Moerae are pointy-hooded white figures: KKK on holiday? These spectral and nightmarish figures aggressively and incessantly lunge and lurch; they command the physical space of the gallery in a menacing way. In spite of all that darkness, this Art makes one smile. Art can often make us admire the

technical skill of the artist and/or shows us a vision of the world that is unique and compelling… but smile? … not so much.

Paul Chan uses techniques that combine fashion design and patternmaking with physics. Paul Chan calls his figures “breathers”, animated by breath and moving to the tune of air. Paul Chan’s stated intention to to create animation that breaks through the frame and he succeeds thoroughly and emphatically here. Go see it.

The title Rhi Anima references the words of Aristotle: “Knowledge is for that which moves by that which moves.” — De Anima

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