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But underlying these specific social and political implications are a panoply of semiotic strategies — the inversions, mirroring, echoing and translations — that direct the viewer’s attention back on itself, giving the work an immediate and universal phenomenological wallop missing from more fundamentally didactic art.
“I am interested in craft,” explains the artist, “but it isn’t necessarily an interest in ‘textiles as a feminine endeavor.’ It’s something that implicitly gets worked into the read of it — which is fine — but my objective is really the idea of translation, the idea of translating something that was made as a sculptural thing from an image of it, of pulling it through a system back into being something made again. For me, these macramé pieces are a picture and an object at the same time, because the process of making it mimics the labor that goes into the original thing. But really it’s still just a picture, and it’s holding together by virtue of the paint soaking into the canvas. It’s a simultaneous flattening and dimensionalizing of the image.”
This complex play with representation is interesting enough when informing individual artworks, but as one begins to pay close attention to Ross-Ho’s larger body of work, similar strategies begin to emerge on a systemwide scale. The separate works in a given exhibit reveal themselves to be engaged in complex multivalent dialogue — between one another and the outside world, including the artist’s personal life. While Ross-Ho was preparing for the Whitney, her father became ill and needed her help to dislodge himself from his seriously cluttered three-story house. In the midst of this undertaking, she was approached to participate in a museum exhibit on the Chinese-American experience. Reluctant at first, Ross-Ho realized that she was waist-deep in the perfect multilayered response to this curatorial proposal, and a retrospective of her father’s artwork was presented as an Amanda Ross-Ho installation this summer at Pasadena’s Pacific Asia Museum.
Ross-Ho’s second solo exhibit at Cherry and Martin includes even more personal material — an across-the-board inversion of her previous appropriation of faux-autobiographical generic mass-media imagery. (In an earlier installation, she included a found magazine clipping of an Asian girl making an abstract-expressionist painting, which many mistook for a portrait of the artist as a young woman; the new show includes several commercial photos for which Ross-Ho was the actual child model.) There’s a new series of cutout black-silhouette paintings — this time mimicking the pegboard of her Whitney installation. The wall on which these were painted will form part of her installation for OCMA’s California Biennial later this summer.
The current show — titled “Half of What I Say Is Meaningless” — also reaches back in time to her previous installation in the same space, reinscribing the layout of her breakthrough 2007 show, “Nothin Fuckin Matters,” with works that mimic, invert, translate and fracture their predecessors.
“That’s kind of the big project in a way — to create something that isn’t just about physical dimensionality, but that has a temporal dimensionality.” This sounds like an implicit idea that underlies many artists’ oeuvres throughout history, but the best art often seems to make the obvious strange and new by simply foregrounding it. Has Amanda Ross-Ho’s three-year burst of looking-glass permutations unlocked a new dimension of art, or will she find herself locked in an increasingly self-referential loop? Or both? Only time will tell.
AMANDA ROSS-HO: HALF OF WHAT I SAY IS MEANINGLESS | Cherry and Martin | 12611 Venice Blvd., L.A. | (310) 398-7404 | Sept. 20 through Nov. 1