And The Moon Be Still as Bright

Group Exhibition

Harper’s Chelsea 512 + 534
New York, NY
July 13, 2023
August 18, 2023
Featured Artists:
Joeun Kim Aatchim, Vincent Cy Chen, Hyegyeong Choi, Jacqueline Kiyomi Gork, Alexa Kumiko Hatanaka, Mimi Jung, Ho Jae Kim, Antonia Kuo, Ajay Kurian, Heidi Lau, Jennie Jieun Lee, Cole Lu, Erica Mao, Suchitra Mattai, Jacqueline Qiu, Pauline Shaw, Kyungmi Shin, Astra Huimeng Wang, Ye Qin Zhu

Press Release

Sometimes I just feel like leaving. I think we all want to leave sometimes—we have all felt unwanted, undesired in our own ways. As a result, we have had to imagine our own new worlds, whether they be internal or otherwise. Where do we want to leave? And where do we want to go? Existential departure doesn’t necessarily have a place from which you depart, nor a place in which you hope to arrive. You just want to leave. It’s enough to want that.

These points of departure and arrival are existentially abstract, but can also be very real.  The “who” here is likewise variable. The formation of what constitutes Asian American identity is porous, changing, and largely blurry. I have at times felt both included and excluded, have understood the definition to be importantly narrow and other times beautifully wide. The “we” here is whatever it might mean to those who read this, experience this show, and understand the thematics to be their own. Those who have felt alien in their own land.

This exhibition takes its title from a line of Lord Byron’s, but was popularized by Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, and specifically from a chapter where the men of a Mars mission contemplate the death of the prior Martian Civilization by, of all things, chicken pox. It is a not-so-subtle foil for colonization and genocide projected in the future where humanity has yet to learn from its mistakes. Tens of thousands of years onward, humans continue to thoughtlessly plod into other lands, attempting to own and profit from the blood of others they consider less than human. The story is unfortunately as old as our sense of time.

Spencer, Bradbury's character recounting the poem, is thinking that it could have been written by the last Martian to exist. It is an elegy in the original sense of the Greek, as a song of mourning or funereal lamentation. Elegy is the kind of mode that teeters between hope and despair. As a form, elegy itself is suspension—the tightrope between these two emotional chasms. Within elegy is a remembrance of things lost, with one eye on things to come. The well of emotion we feel in reading elegy comes from that in-between space of lamenting the loss of something precious while confirming the persistence of tomorrow.

The ability to think and feel contradictory things and emotions is very often what makes art a complex and necessary part of our human education. These moments of suspension ideally gives us an emotional and conceptual ground from which to think through history’s violence, not simply for further bloodlust, but for a kind of worldly piety—to imagine spaces of care, protection, and persistence.

Jacqueline Qiu’s tapestries appear as suspended between woven and unwoven, articulating landscapes that feel precious and precarious. They are jeweled, delicate, and undulating to the warp and weave of threads we can follow. Jennie Jieun Lee’s busts, meanwhile, feel as though a timeless figure has fallen to Earth, drenched in millennia of beauty and violence. Like the gender-fluid Tiresias, Lee’s figures have the quality of seers. Transformations take place in many works, including Jacqueline Kiyomi Gork’s giant overcoat, insisting on the spiritual and material comfort provided by a dampening of the world’s incessant noise. And Cole Lu’s Brancusi-like assemblage stacks the familiar and unfamiliar, inflecting them with a literary gravitas through a poem-length title: "Thirty miles above his head, a thin layer of oxygen molecules forms a shell for life itself. While the actions of life are not so many, one he knew was that fever is a symptom of deeper problems, killing everything in him but him. In those few degrees, time stretched endlessly, atoms collided together, the dust in his lungs turned into burning stars. (Boat)." Lu humbly stitches together the cosmic and the bodily, sickness and climate, through the passages of sculpture and language.

Assembled here are artists that believe in tomorrow’s moonlight, while knowing that moonlight will not save us. There is no “where” to leave to, despite our desire.

—Written by Ajay Kurian