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May 10 – June 15, 2024

Participating artists: Adam de Boer, Adam Linn, Ákos Ezer, Alvin Ong, Amir H. Fallah, Brenda Zlamany, Cindy Bernhard, Deborah Brown, Erik Probst, Everette Ball, Ilya Fedotov-Fedorov, Jean Nagai, Kaylie Kaitschuck, Matthew F. Fisher, Margaret Curtis, Maude Corriveau, Tim Irani, Vickie Vainionpää, Remus Grecu, Slimen Elkamel and Xiao Wang.


                                               The whole earth is my homeland and human family is my tribe.

                                                                                                                     – Kahlil Gibran

Loyal to its mission of promoting intercultural dialogue, PLATO continues its program with Double Vision, Part II, a group exhibition spanning works by 21 artists who see the world through the eyes of the other. Expanding upon the key themes in Double Vision, Part I – diversity, immigration, mixed cultural and ethnic identity – the second iteration of the show explores how mixed identity is affected by global challenges such as isolationist politics, social inequalities and unchecked expansion of AI. 


“No man is an island,” and yet “there is no prophet in their own land.” Is it possible to truly put yourself in the shoes of the other, or are all attempts at true compassion and identification with a different culture mere projections, doomed to leave a gap between aspirations and reality? 


Romanian artist Remus Grecu channels Renaissance portraitists and still life makers of Western Europe for both the subject and composition of his recent paintings. Yet the saturated colors and animistic sensibility of his earlier series on Romanian folklore linger on, resulting in a bizarre and magnetic aesthetic that mixes east and west, ancient and modern, real and mythical. 


New York-based Brenda Zlamany was commissioned to paint camels at a festival in Saudi Arabia. She lived in a tent city in the Dahna Desert with circus performers stemming from such disparate corners of the globe as Kyrgyzstan, Africa, Southeast Asia and Texas. Zlamany was deeply moved by the experience, and upon her return to New York, spent over two years painting the diverse group of stilt walkers, equilibrists and clowns – a foreigner connecting to other foreigners united by the shared labor of entertaining the locals. 


Another New Yorker, Deborah Brown spent countless hours during the pandemic wandering around the city. One day a vertiginous view of a makeshift clothes stall from an above ground subway stop deep in Brooklyn inspired a painting, now on view at Plato. The work led to a vast, ongoing series depicting immigrant street vendors, musicians and storefronts of small owner shops. A once indifferent passerby became an observer. A focused observation then led to a deep compassion for her subjects, which is now generously shared with the viewers. 


Kaylie Kaitschuck’s power of observation borders on obsession. The Detroit-based artist bundles toys, tech devices, food, labor tools, plants and animals in one continuous stream of consciousness poured into sculptured yarn. She is a rare Pop artist who consistently includes creatures of nature in her consumerist tableaus. With a Gen Z perspective on the environment, Kaylie prompts us to rethink our relationship to the Planet, viewing other species as as intrinsic to our day-to-day as consumer staples.


The painter Alvin Ong portrays himself in a liminal space: based in both London and Singapore, he is a perpetual traveler between east and west.In a painting by China-born, New York-based artist Xiao Wang, a Chinese passport is set on fire. Perhaps the brazen act is an attempt to break with the past and further integrate its owner into a society in which he sometimes still feels like a foreigner despite living in it for years. Will a destruction of a travel document erase the cultural divide or just divorce the double consciousness from double opportunities afforded to those who relate to two disparate cultures? 


Throughout Double Vision, old cultural identities collapse and re-emerge as a haunting echo of the patriarchal past. Ákos Ezer’s disenchanted Hungarian youths are caught in a deceptive nostalgia. The western capitalist ideal never quite materialized in their Eastern European homeland, nor did the socialist utopia their parents’ generation were once promised. Persian American Amir H. Fallah’s Invisible Line assembles cultural artifacts from around the globe, with a Middle Eastern feminine beauty foregrounded by the faded map of the world once used to guide western colonizers to the “new” frontiers. Margaret Curtis’ cleansing fire suggests that on the ashes of the destructive past a new order could be born. It might resemble Tunesian artist Slimen Elkamel's pastoral ideal of humanity in harmony with nature and each other, in which Fallah’s Line becomes visible, connecting men, animals and plants in a self-regenerative circle of life. 


Canadian Vickie Vainionpää harnesses computer code to capture and interpret the movement of her eyes when they scrutinize Pan and Syrinx, a painting that was meant to please the male gaze as it depicts a nude nymph pursued by a lusty satyr. The artist then meticulously renders the resulting visual in oil paint, joining the human vision and the digital one, the male and the female. Artificial intelligence – still struggling to distinguish between the genders – also aids Remus Grecu in reimagining old-master female portraiture. It turns a traditional female in front of a landscape into a more androgynous, almost bionic figure. This could be an image anticipating a post-human world in which self-guided AI painting devices churn out similarly uncanny likenesses accompanied by shiny inedible fruit and bulky landscapes, with no human eyes to see them.


Cindy Bernhard’s otherworldly cat, Adam Linn’s garden hose stretching into the horizon and Erik Probst’s fantastical creatures of the Looking Glass World invite us into the realm of fantasy and hyper subjectivity – mechanisms allowing artists to cope with the fracturing of identities and the universal global precarities. Matthew F. Fisher joins the timeless imagery of the Moon and the Sun, giving them human features, a possible reference to the recent solar eclipse – a sight that used to be considered inauspicious and strictly avoided but recently turned into a global spectacle due to viral social media posts and catchy headlines. In his expressive drawings, New York artist Everette Ball, identifying as having a developmental disability, provides a soothing, highly personal perspective of viral mass spectacles. He props the Leaning Tower of Pisa with a fluffy cloud and replaces running players with gigantic mouth-watering hot dogs on the football field. 


Both Montreal-based painter Maude Corriveau and angeleno from Iran Amir H. Fallah tap into the Netherlandish still-life tradition, each with their highly individualized sensibility. Corriveau – with an environmentalist bent, as she sources synthetic fabrics and disposable objects hiding under them in local thrift shops and dollar stores. Fallah – through deeply saturated colors, decorative painted framing and extensive collage, infusing Northern European painting with the aesthetics of the Global South. 


Double vision still lifes give way to landscapes in the adjacent room, where three Los Angeles-based American artists – Adam de Boer, with Dutch Indonesian roots, Tim Irani, whose father comes from Iraq and Jean Nagai, with Japanese parents, as well as a Russian emigre in New York Ilya Fedotov-Fedorov – all represent nature while reflecting their cultural idiosyncrasies and social concerns through corresponding techniques, media and color palettes.  


Double vision might be an unavoidable state of being in our fractured, kaleidoscopic, precarious world. It is a coin that can be a source of anxiety and alienation if flipped the wrong way. Yet, if viewed as a treasure which provides multiple perspectives and heightens our ability to emphasize with others, it can be a true touchstone, always at hand to console, heal and revive. 

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