Signs as Places

Works by Olivia Chou and Marta Murray 
Curated by Mengyao Wang
Wednesday, February 14th, 5 pm – 7 pm
On view through February 17th, 2018
80WSE Gallery
80 Washington Square East

Olivia Chou and Marta Murray have long been preoccupied with the experiences of places, the
issues around taste, and the commercial culture deeply embedded in the American life.
Considering the Americana as a mixture of imagined history, fake memories and illusionary
nostalgia manifested in a series of visual signs such as advertisements, billboards, sand
castles, and blue highways, Chou and Murray continues their reflection by working
collaboratively in this show, transforming the gallery space into a stage set by juxtaposing
Murray’s life size collage paintings with Chou’s flattened free standing sculptures.

Interested in representing the lifestyle and taste of the American middle class, Murray draws
inspiration extensively from her experience of the rural America, integrating blue highways, the
deserts and billboards into her canvas to reflect on the making of places with signs. Integrating
mass-produced commodities, neon signs, and dizzy street scenes into her pictorial planes,
Murray offers an infinite space that reveals both personal memories and popular visual culture
within the ever-changing social surroundings. The painted paper strides attached to the pictorial
surface are arranged as sculptural elements protruding into the audience’s space, which further
animates Murray’s paintings and transform them into a series of theatrical scene lively
performed by the matrix of signs, forms and colors that recalls the artist’s memory of the rural
America as a vast stage.

Directly responding to Murray’s paintings, Chou picks up graphic elements within Murray’s
pictorial planes and transform those two dimensional representations into free standing
sculptures spreading around the gallery space. Holding a strong interest in theatre and stage
design, Chou intentionally gives her sculptures a flattened look by cutting them out of thin
boards, applying vivid colors on them to imitate the stage props. Chou’s color scheme is
specifically inspired by the Japanese Vaporwave aesthetics in the 1980s, which is rooted in
cyberpunk culture. By applying bright and saturated purple, pink, and bluish colors, Chou
creates a futuristic visual impression that registers the realm of the cyberspace, Japanese
manga, and video games, bringing another dimension of theatricality that blurs the boundary
between the reality and the virtual reality.

By exposing the audience to this playful stage set, Olivia Chou and Marta Murray create an
ambiguous space within the tension between representation and performativity, providing an
immersive environment with no clear instructions of the way the audience supposed to orient
themselves. The sense of disorientation at the same time opens up multiple interpretations and
makes the audience both the performer and the spectator within the show, whose presence has
a decisive role for transforming the stage into an animated theater.

 

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From left to right: Olivia Chou, Mengyao Wang, Marta Murray

 

Photos by A. Leonardo Amiri

 

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