Sunday, May 25, 2003

Chang examines the female experience

CAC opening: 6 days to go

By Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Patty Chang (born 1972, United States)

One of the seven artists who will premiere a new piece at the opening of the new Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, downtown, on Saturday, Patty Chang likes to makes us squirm and laugh at the same time.

Her performances - she calls them "time-based sculptures" - are cockeyed close-ups of the extreme. In "Fountain," she laps up water from a mirror on the floor of a stall in a public toilet. In true Fear Factor-style, she attempts to remain calm while eels squirm underneath her tight-fitting blouse.

In "Melons" she slices open her bra to reveal half a cantaloupe, cut side out. She spoons the fruit into her mouth while reciting a eulogy to an aunt who died of breast cancer.

"She uses her body as the main point of reference," says Anna Kostera of Tilton/Kostera Gallery in New York, Chang's dealer. "Her performances are examinations of the female experience."

In Somewhere Better Than This Place: Alternative Social Experiences in the Spaces of Contemporary Art, large-scale, color photographs and videos of Chang's previous performances will be on view.

Chang's feminist takes on identity are ever-present in her work. In "Contortion," she masquerades as a Chinese acrobat by working with a partially hidden double. As she lies on the floor, a Mona Lisa grin aimed at the camera, her double's legs bend over her head.

"There's a certain subtlety to her work," says Kostera. "But it can be aggressive. She did this piece after a trip to China to meet her parents for the first time. She saw contortionists there - I believe the practice began in China."

She is always "trying to push the limits of what you can do with your body," Kostera says.


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