Cellar / Attic
Hue Bui and Monique Muse
Few things are as riddled with cliché as the home: “Home is where the heart is,” “a house is not a home,” and “home is wherever you are,” all being examples. These sentimental truisms, among many others, substitute a structural definition of a household for one that is immaterial and transitory. Defining the home through nebulous matrices of familial relationships, biological or chosen, rather than by physical site implies a disavowal of objects, the things of home that constitute its notional resonance. In Cellar / Attic at 80WSE, artists Hue Bui and Monique Muse have collaborated on an installation that foregrounds precisely this material element of home-making.
Cellar / Attic includes two works, which––to quote the artists––form a “spatial composition,” eschewing relationships between adjacent walls to engage the gallery’s vertical axis. Muse’s contribution, a large wooden sculpture, is situated beneath a wire armature made by Bui; a nest that supports a network of lights, printed ephemera, and fabric. To a certain degree, the artists’ individual contributions are split between the upper and lower registers of the gallery. However, because Muse’s sculpture operates as a functional bench for visitors, its seating angled to produce a sightline to the ceiling, she directs attention upwards. Conversely, while the skeleton of Bui’s work resides overhead, its constituent elements cascade down and engage the ground. In creating a dynamic, inchoate relationship between “cellar” and “attic,” up and down, Bui and Muse foreground their spatial entanglement.
Despite the connective tissue created between Muse and Bui’s sculptures and the consequent production of a single environment––a space for sitting, looking, communing––each artist’s work describes particular relationships to home and home-making. Muse exhibits a concern with meticulous engineering. Because her sculptures are often functional, either as recognizable domestic furniture or as less legible platforms for reprieve, a certain technical mastery is required. Having lived in many different homes with her family while growing up, Muse notes an “undeniable urgency” to fabricate furniture as a means of grappling with her sense of being permanently in transit. Bui, who grew up in Vietnam, works within a similar epistemological uncertainty with respect to home. The wire apparatus that Bui has constructed for Cellar / Attic refers to a lotus leaf, Vietnam’s national flower. The form Bui constructs, with its undulating curvilinearity, materializes her “looped” relationship to time and memory, her “then, there” constituting her “here, now.”
Bui and Muse, while articulating these subjective and distinct approaches to home, ultimately engage in a dialectical relationship with each other in Cellar / Attic. Subsequently, the physical environment in which their work participates suggests a type of coalition––a warm embrace––between each other, with viewers, and with their materials.
Hue Bui, Untitled, 2018-19, Installation (armature wire, burlap, hand-dyed cotton and silk), Variable
Monique Muse, Seesaw and Pergola, 2019, Installation (wood, metal, plexiglass, concrete, inkjet print), Variable