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It’s been five years since Linling Lu’s last exhibition at Hemphill Fine Arts. She’s not going to escape any yawning references to Kenneth Noland or Gene Davis this time, either. But that is more a feature of the work than a bug. Sure: We can compare her vibrating stripes to those of Davis. Yes: The circle recalls Noland. But neither of those artists were capable of capturing a deep space within their best known paintings. Lu does—though no photograph of her pieces can adequately recreate the space of the work. All numbered within the series of One Hundred Years of Solitude, the concentric blue bands of “#122” fall into a deep abyss of blue. Conversely, the stripes of green in “#120” leap from the circular canvas like the conical eye of a chameleon.
The illusion of space occurs at a careful distance from each painting. Viewed from too far away, the canvas pulsates, creating disorienting eye pain. Viewed too closely, the full-effect of a painting’s deep space is lost. However, it’s from up-close that the canvas transforms into a second work, one where a careful study can be made of the painting’s lollipop stripes, as the rest of the canvas deliciously consumes all peripheral vision.
A closer look provides an opportunity to closely examine the solid bands of colors that wrap around each painting. In many instances, the bands are not solid colors at all: The colors feather from a hard exterior edge in toward a softer, lighter value. While nearly every painting appears to conceal the mark of the brush—an artist’s touch—it is the subtle irregularity within the blend that reveals the human hand, and the sensitive attention the artist gives to each canvas.
The circular motif of concentric rings isn’t the only construct in the gallery. There’s a small composition of collaged fabrics and another little triangular composition of stripes. They feel more like afterthoughts, though: a suggestion that the artist is keeping her hand busy with other things.
Then there are the sculptures. Small, Tetris-like sculptures sit on a shelf inside Hemphill’s chapel-like room that divides the middle gallery from the rear gallery. The 11 intersecting constructions are composed of 2-inch cubes: most are three, four cubes wide, deep, or tall.
Color almost seems superfluous in these compositions, yet their colors feel as informed by the self-conscious formalism of color theory and design that exists in the paintings (without the function of depth or space). The color makes the work more approachable, and defines their separate forms, which almost take on figurative qualities of people sitting, standing, and laying down.
As they interact with other forms, each sculpture can be personified into relationships that range from friendly to tantric as they hold hands, kiss, embrace, and penetrate the other two, three, or four shapes in each composition. As a group, the orgy of colors and shapes appear to work, but unlike their circular counterparts throughout the remaining galleries, they might not hit the bulls-eye.
At Hemphill Fine Arts to Dec. 16. 1515 14th Street NW, #300. Free. (202) 234-5601. hemphillfinearts.com.