Chambers Fine Art (522 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011, U.S.A.), May 15 – Aug 22, 2015
This is a second “Constellations” show from Zhao Zhao—the first iteration in 2013 presented real glass panels. Now, Zhao has produced a series of paintings mimicking broken glass. These are canvases cleverly primed with lacquered brown on which reverberating orbs of splintered blues and whites simulate the visual effect of glass smashed as if by a hammer, bullets or some other focused impact. Certainly, they inspire similes—jellyfish, perhaps, or flowers, as remarked by guests at the opening.
Thus far, Zhao has proved adept at turning ideas—not in terms of a transformation, but rather as if rotating them inside a display case for which his work can feel destined. His practice as seen across various exhibitions is less a constellation than a string of tightly produced series (the glass panels, the blue sky paintings, the stupa sculptures, the mouse dropping paintings and now these skillful renditions of broken glass). One feels he doesn’t look back.
Constellations II is a series about surfaces, regardless of what is invested in it verbally (early on, the press release names Prussian blue and Van Dyck brown). These are extremely formal works, potentially beguiling up close and impressive from a distance. Unless extra effort is applied on the part of the viewer to scrutinize them and find or invent something more, their effect is as instantaneous as the meeting of implement and glass they simulate. These are indeed painstaking works, and this is, “ironically” or not (see press release), a different kind of action from the sort which can break glass. But there in the gallery, theirs is regardless a stark collision of paint and eye: a swift, direct hit.