Post-Post-Modernist with A Pencil?
Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Transcription Profile of the Academic Seminar---Loy Luo: The Other I (The Me in Others)
Edited by ZOOM Conference, organized by WhiteBox Harlem Art Center, New York, on 31 July/2020
Les Joynes is a contemporary artist and scholar on contemporary visual cultures at Columbia University and is a professor of Modern and contemporary art at Renmin University, Beijing.
Les and his friend Loy Luo Sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Loy Luo is a Chinese artist from Beijing. Her first solo show in New York is being held at White Box Harlem.
Reminiscing about the past Loy Luo Sketch 11”*14”5/2020
Chunchen Wang is Chief Curator and Deputy Director, CAFA Art Museum, Beijing at Central Academy of Fine Arts.
Chunchen Wang Loy Luo Sketch 11”*14”3/2020
David Brubaker is an independent scholar with recent research in aesthetics as Visiting Professor at the School of Art and Design, Hubei University, Wuhan, China.
David Brubaker Loy Luo Sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Yin Mei is a Chinese choreographer, dancer and director based in New York. She is a professor of dance in the Drama, Theatre and Dance Department and director of the dance program, Queens College.
Yin Mei LoyLuo Sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Anthony Haden-Guest is a British-American writer, cartoonist, art critic, and socialite who lives in New York City.
Anthony Haden-Guest Loy Luo Sketch 11”*14”7/2020
Meng Tang is Vice-President of International Association of Female Artist, and teaches Art at the University of Minnesota.
Tang Meng Loy Luo Sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Kyoko Sato is Director of Asian Programming, WhiteBox Harlem.
Kyoko Sato Loy Luo Sketch 11”*14”4/2020
Juan Puntes is Founder and Artistic Director, WhiteBox Harlem.
Juan Puntes LoyLuo Sketch 11”*14”2/2020
( The Body of the Transcription profile)
Kyoko: Good morning everyone and welcome to the WhiteBox Harlem, I hope you will enjoy today's Firehouse Lit Lounge, a zoom panel discussion. My name is Kyoko Sato, Director of Asian Programming and curator of Loy Luo's present extraordinary exhibition "The Other I, The Me in Others". I am proud to present this meaningful exhibition of her ongoing portrait drawing performances in New York City under the coronavirus pandemic. Loy Luo arrived in New York in January of this year from China, then encountered the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Luo is a known abstract painter and sculptor, but this time around, under this unusual situation, she decided to approach people, strangers in the streets, and requested that they allow her to draw their portraits in order to celebrate New Yorkers’ resilience.
Now I will pass the mike to our artistic director to introduce a gorgeous group of panelists.
Juan: Good morning everyone and welcome to WhiteBox Harlem. Today, I will simply limit myself to introduce Les Joynes who will be our moderator. And Les, let me tell you, is a great contemporary artist. He’s taught contemporary art history at Columbia University and treaches contemporary art at RenMin University, Beijing. He will moderate and bring you to, in a moment, to talk about the work of Loy Luo during the Pandemic. What she is doing really, in essence，is to roam the streets, find people, ask them to take their masks off—which is not easily done today—take photos of their faces and then draw them quietly in her studio for one，two，or three days at a time. Don’t underestimate the lasting time, full days as this is to just showcase the ‘attitude’ or live gaze in those portraits. This exhibition celebrates the resilience of New Yorkers under the Pandemic. All right, we had had the experience of 9/11 so now we have this other one. I just heard from Chunchen Wang that Beijing is doing just fine, all the restaurants are open, all the bars are open, and here in New York we are still shut down.
Les: Thank you very much, I’m honored to be here, and thank you Juan Puntes, the founder and artistic director of White Box, and Kyoko Sato, the curator of this exhibition. Thank you both for your invitation.
It is an honor to be here with all of you today with our US-China cross-cultural dialogue, and meet Loy Luo, who is a Chinese artist from Beijing, and this is her first solo show in New York now being held at WhiteBox, Harlem. We had the opportunity to talk to Loy and learn more about her art, and it is an honor to be able to look at art created and responding to the Pandemic.
I will introduce our speakers today: Chunchen is Chief Curator and Deputy Director of the Central Academy of Fine Art’s Art Museum in Beijing. We also have David Brubaker, an independent scholar most recently at the School of Arts and Design, Hubei University, Wuhan, China, who joins us today from Connecticut.
Chunchen Wang is joining us today from Shenzhen in China. We also have Yin Mei, Chinese choreographer, dancer and director based in New York. She is a professor of dance in the Drama, Theatre and Dance Department and Program at Queens College. Also with us today is Anthony Haden-Guest, a British-American writer, cartoonist, and art critic based in New York City. And finally, we have Meng Tang, Vice President of the International Association of Female Artists who teaches art at University of Minnesota.
To all of you, welcome. Thank you for joining us today for this important presentation, across both of our cultures and to introduce Loy, the artist. I'll start out by just mentioning that we have had a chance to talk to Loy and I had the opportunity to look at her artwork. It's a very interesting approach to understand one's identity coming to a foreign country, but it's a very special thing indeed to discover one's identity, coming from a country that's experiencing a pandemic, when one cannot go back, and also watching a pandemic unfold in the country one is visiting.
So, her art is entirely prescient and presents a better understanding of how artists today are responding to Covid-19, and responding to the distance that it has created between individuals, where she has used her own artwork to initiate a dialogue to get to the heart of New Yorkers and create an impression about them. So, thank you again for being here today. Loy, could you say hello to everybody?
Loy: Hi! I feel very honored because there are so many excellent people. I am full of gratitude. Thank you very much!
Les: It’s our honor to have you here. So, I would like to mention that we looking at some of her drawings that document her experience. This is a unique opportunity to meet an artist from China who is experiencing the Pandemic.
One of the things that we talked about was the “mask”. We're all very much aware of wearing a mask, what that means, but also, Loy, you were looking at the discovery and removal - or the negotiation between the physical mask and the mask behind that. Could you talk a little bit about the idea of the mask and how you identify the ‘I” in others?
Loy: I think I could do my best to reply you. You asked me two questions. The first is about the mask. Of course, mask has different meanings. One is a physical mask, which in Chinese is a Kouzhao. But I'm more concerned with people's psychological masks. Because I started painting people's portraits before New Yorkers started using physical masks, and what I found really interesting was that people have a lot of different faces, with different emotions.
If people are using a physical mask, I can say "please put down your mask," but when I'm facing a spiritual mask, it is not easy to say "please put down your mask." So I found a way to solve the problem. That is to take many pictures for them, and then capture the real moment and choose the one that seemed most real to me to express something. When people look at their face in the painting, most of them are surprised: Oh yeah! This is me.
It is when people in New York City put on their physical masks that I am stimulated to rethink the relationship between physical and spiritual masks.
Les: Thanks. I’d like to open this now up to our panel today. Will anybody like to pick up from that?
Anthony: Well, I think it's very Post-Post-Modernist to be talking, looking at photographic images of ourselves, and pretty good ones too. I’m talking about art portraits. When Paul Doloravsky, French history painter in the early to mid nineteen century, saw early photographs, he famously said from today the photography is dead. Well, the iPhone has basically kind of killed photography’s form, I think. I’m looking at portraits downstairs, struck, by how much more vital they are than most photographs. And David’s talking said the other day that art can go what photography cannot, and I think that is deeply true, very representational of our lives. Okay, that's it.
Les: David, who is joining us from Connecticut, could you join our conversation and share some reflections?
David : Sure. I’m very glad to share thoughts about this excellent innovative work. I agree with the term “post post-modernist.” When you read Loy Luo’s writings posted online, it is clear that she is interested in the ways that individual human beings move into and out of successive identities. But at the same time, it is more than that and therefore experimental. As she puts it, her work is also about one’s own existence as a unique or “humble” human individual: a uniqueness that is not expressed in factual statements about the actions, habits, or identities performed in society. It is post-postmodern in two ways. First, Loy Luo is exploring the idea that the medium of free-hand drawing may, after all, be as valuable as video or found objects for representing authentically direct-acquaintance with life and contact between human individuals. Second, her artworks and writings are testing the idea that there is an aspect of human existence that is neglected or forgotten whenever actual life is defined exclusively in terms of factually understood performances and actions that differentiate groups. Her work then is an excellent choice for WhiteBox in this period of the pandemic when voices online and in the street hint that basic values for human culture are being reexamined and refreshed. There is speech now for what cannot be denied: inadequate structures are causing some groups of people to experience more risks, harm, and dangers than others. These groups can be identified; the harm is real and support needs to be real also. At the same time, there is talk of “humanity,” “being in this together,” and empathy for each unique human individual. It is clear that voices in the street are inspired by an idea of humanity that spreads and seeps through economic, social, and national differences. That's what I get from the work: exploration of the relation between objective identities and the intimacy of human existence. There is one more thing. Loy Luo’s method for making portraits is interesting. She meets a particular person, gathers a set of different portrait images, selects one that disrupts preconceptions about what is there, and then begins to interpret and convey it through drawing. She suggests that the final result communicates something vital and fresh about the individuality of human existence. She says her portraits of dogs helped her develop this approach! I hope we talk about that.
Les: Loy, could you talk about the reason that you choose the dogs?
Loy: When I take pictures of dogs, I feel "the person" is so real, because they don't have to wear two masks. They are naturally lively. So when I look at them, I think this is “me”, this is the real “me”, every dog has a lot of real faces, so I think humans have a lot of real “me”. Proceeding from this, I have discovered another thing: when I do portraits of others, I feel that everyone's portrait is my portrait. When someone paints a portrait of someone else, he paints a portrait of his own. So, I feel that “I” is coming back, because the subject that is scattered in each object is everywhere. I think through this I can find the subject I, and it is because I am rethinking how much of the real “me” I have that the subject I is revived.
Black Doggie LoyLuo Sketch 11”*14”2/2020
Black Dog LoyLuo Sketch 11”*14”2/2020
Les: I think, Loy, we all experience that in New York because of its diversity. And there is a lot of masking, like spiritual masking in New York, also double masking now, and you mentioned before you felt that if somebody rejected your request to take their mask down on the street for example, you would then say, can I take a photograph of your dog? You express something that was like relief, in a way, because to be able to see the honesty and directness of a dog, that's what I feel is translated here. David, you had a comment I believe.
Yellow Dog LoyLuo Sketch 11”*14”2/2020
Old Dog LoyLuo Sketch 11”*14”2/2020
Yellow Doggie LoyLuo Sketch 11”*14”2/2020
David: I just want to add something that Loy said about the way making a drawing connects her with the person. I’d like to hear more from Kyoko Sato, the curator, who writes that Loy Luo’s images bring people together. Loy says she sees herself in the image of the other person that she is creating. It seems that she sees herself when she's looking, making a drawing, and also meeting people. And Kyoko Sato writes that she saw Loy in the image of someone else’s face; a drawing made by hand brings people together. I'm just wondering what both of them think about that.
Kyoko: That is my idea, concept about her portraits. Whenever I see the portraits, I see the artist’s face. While she is making drawings, looking at their faces, but she is also looking for herself in each face.
Anthony: Johnson Assad said portraits are paintings with something wrong with the mouth. When I look at the drawings, something struck me very much. David Devein, who did drawing portraits for New Yorker books for many years and brilliantly, or Phong Bui from Brooklyn Rail, they tend to go for a passive look, not exactly expressionless, but not radiating personality. You don't overdo, nothing compares purely about them, but there are a wide variety of expressions, and I assume it was thoroughly characteristic of the personal drawings. I’d like to know what you said about choosing the images from which you made your drawings.
Loy: Sometimes when I was walking down the street and seeing someone coming across the street suddenly I got a deep impression, perhaps a connection (like an ancient Roman patriarch or the winner of the Colosseum). This is my favorite choice. Of course, for some people, I don't feel anything at first, maybe because it looks normal, they ask me to do portraits. For example, when I was staying in a hotel, And I was sitting in the public space of a youth hostel and I was painting day after day, a lot of people would say, "Oh, you're so talented, can you do a portrait for me?" Then, when I come across some of the less impressive faces, I try to find a very special moment, and I choose one of many photos that looks very spiritual. Almost most people I can find a good moment, but sometimes, some people may have too many masks and It's hard for me to get into their deeper spirituality, so I can't do that well when I'm in a situation like this.
Passenger on Subway Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Hotel Manager Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”5/2020
Homeless Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Construction foreman Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”6/2020
Film Editor Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”3/2020
Les: I really appreciate your portraits because there’s something that breaks the barrier with me, almost like we look at a painting that's aiming to be realistic. We will be captured into that space almost like we're watching a movie. We get caught in a cinematic space, and there's something about piercing the Fourth Wall. I would say that in each of these, we've got the drawing, the top centered drawing that we are looking at right now, there's a sense of visual connection, and then also your choices to create, maybe in the quickness of the drawing, there's something that captures something emotional where they are not realistic, but in that way where they are more vibrant. One of many artists that I’ve been interested in, some contemporary artists in the 1990s in UK and the United States, create curious drawings that will be a little bit off, something a little bit strange. When we look at some of these photographs we have in the portraits of these three people for example, we have two people that are looking in one way and then have the third person looking a little bit strangely in a different dimension. So you kind of bring us in and there's something uncanny, something strange, which is interesting to me.
Xiaohua and Her Family Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”4/2020
Loy: For me, I don't just do portraits to look like people in pictures. Of course, I use pictures to help me catch something, but not just to make it look like or not like that person. That's not what I want. I hadn't painted a portrait for years before I painted a portrait. It was only when I came to New York and got caught up in the epidemic that I found so many faces so interesting, so vivid, so much desire, that I found it so interesting, and it caught me. Before I did this, I concentrated on abstract painting and sculpture for many years because I didn't live in real life; I've been living, perhaps, in the sky. I'm not interested in real life, I think most of my energy is in philosophy, and if it's western philosophy, I could read a very big philosophical dictionary many, many days and nights. But when I came to New York, I thought, yes, of course something happened to my family, so I think I've come from the sky to the earth, to real life, and it's all good. In New York, contemporary artists always say, "Your art can be integrated into your life," and I say, "OK." Now, I go back to real life, like this, and I don't think about metaphysics.
Les: Could I ask just a comment please from either Meng Tang or Yin Mei?
Meng : When I first met Loy a couple of years ago, she was known mostly for her abstract paintings. This time I saw many portraits. These portraits remind me of German photographer August Sander. August Sander was a photographer and took identity card portraits for ordinary German people between World War I and World War II. When he did those portraits, he might not think those portraits are so compelling. Today through these images, we can strongly feel that he caught the face of the time and powerfully recorded German society's ordinary people’s feeling. Loy’s work gives me the same feeling. When you see each work individually, you see many good portraits that catching people's body and spirit in particular ways. But when you see hundreds of them, you began to feel these is something else, something much bigger – the collective consciousness of New Yorkers and all Americans during the pandemic - no matter race, ethnicity, cultural background, there is something they all share and they all feel about life.
As a dog lover, I am fascinated by those dog portraits. As you know, dogs know lie about love. They never lie about their feelings. They always express their true feelings through their eyes and body language. When you look at a dog in its eyes, you see its spirit, and you know dogs are equal to human beings. Loy did very well in capturing dogs’ feelings and spirits.
Loy’s recent works generate a genuine picture of New York City during the pandemic. These works are very compelling.
Yin Mei: I'm gonna say few words. Actually, the first point when Meng Tang talked about, it is right in my note. As a choreographer when I see these paintings, of course every individual portrait is a beautiful portrait, from any point of view. They are in one way realistic, but in another way, like Anthony, they are post-modern to me. You do not see the background in the portrait, you do not see where they’re coming from, you only feel, you are totally captured, by the spirit of the person at that moment. I think that when Loy talked about the masks; my understanding, a spirit has no mask, its connected to Oneness, therefore, no nothing needed. But people do, people always try to cover in layers and not to let others see things through, we present ourselves through masks. Artist often has intention and ability to try to reveal what is beyond the masks and to touch the truth lying beneath, and I feel this very strong intention came through these paintings. Moved me also very much is the immersive power of repetition. As a choreographer, the space is always capturing us and what is moving in that space and how which create the energy and emotions. A movement phrase repeated ten times, hundred times, the movement articulate something else, which becoming something you never recognized before. So here I recognize this power, which bring the viewer immerse with her portraits. At this moment of pandemic, the portrait stood out so human that I forget time and space, and the pandemic, nor New York, I don't even feel this is in New York, those human beings could be in anywhere, she portrait the true sense of humanity, she brought the light from those people. the human spirit, the light shining out through the work which I think is totally powerful and inspirational. This is my first reaction to the works.
Les: Thank you very much Yin Mei. And Chunchen Wang, who is now in China, has just made a comment here by text, which I'll read out: “Loy’s portraits are interesting. They make us think about how people look at their own faces, when facing the Pandemic, for example. There is a sense of capturing the face, capturing the intimate, real person behind the mask. At the same time, this is New York, as part of it there is a sense of optimism, at least I feel it when I go out, so that they are facing the Pandemic and there is a sense of resoluteness. There is sense of strength in the way they can access a positive side, even in a pandemic.
And also, Chunchen says “these portraits make us reconsider what is globalization and how people depend on each other.” I think that's a very interesting comment especially about these works has being a dialogue between an artist from China with people in the city of New York. So I'd like to ask Loy if she could comment on that.
Loy: I'm very happy. I remember last time Les asked me about putting on the mask again. At the same time, I also want to answer what Yin Mei has just said. She said we were social beings and of course we had to wear masks. I agree. That's what I was thinking. Kyoko, will you please open the last post on my website www.loyluo.art? I wrote something about this problem.
This part is thinking about the personal mask, why we should put down the mask, because we need to go back to "I",from “me” to “I”, and recover the real ‘I”.
The following part is my reverse thinking about the positive meaning of the mask, that not only the physical mask is important in the pandemic, but we should also consider the positive meaning of the spiritual mask, and not just treat it critically, we can think about the reason that the spiritual mask may have its existence.
Les: I'd like to acknowledge the idea of your creating a remarkable space. And understanding identity through a space that is uniquely human. You are accessing the human in New York,. You are creating a bridge between yourself, as a traveller from another another country - a bridge and a connection between you and them. The creation of the drawings is part of your projecting your “I” into the other person and creating a sense of yourself through the other person. Chunchen Wang comments that Loy’s portraits show us how we face our future, if we have a future. By saying that, there is a sense of optimism and humanity.
Meng: She said that New York City is an exciting place. Living in the city, knowing those people, working with them, and recording them through her portraits, Loy started to understand them and feel that the humanity is the same in everyone, even though New York is a very diverse place. But after knowing them in person, she thinks that all human beings are very similar.
Loy: I would say that when I came to New York, I met a lot of poor people, homeless people, and I talked to them. Then I go to the apartments of very rich people, and I know they don't want to take off their masks, they'd rather I do portraits of their dogs. I think these portraits don't just look at the portraits themselves. I also did a few other things, including writing and making videos. I put my thoughts on the video as well. I think that's what makes me think about New Yorkers.
Les: You got two forms of portraits, one is the portraits of individuals, the other is the portraits of the “I” - Loy’s “I” in New York. And, you are putting yourself in the portraits. When I’m watching these videos they are presented in a way that gives me the sense that I am falling down a building, so the idea of watching New York, while falling, is an interesting perspective in these multi channeled videos. Thank you Meng Tang and Yin Mei for your clarifications there as well. And Christopher, could you share what is like to be the subject, a New York subject?
Christopher:Sure. First of all, Kyoko, thank you for inviting me to participate, and Loy, it is wonderful to see you again here. It’s nice to meet all of you. I met Loy by chance when I was at White Box and I didn’t know she would be there. I really quickly felt or recognized that we are doing the very same thing, although I’m not a visual artist. I’m a director of a healing and art center called Center for Remembering and Sharing, and a Sufi dancer, and a performing artist. What I felt is that Loy just wants us to remember all the time that we are one, that there is light and love in each of us. She has an intention to remember to allow her thoughts that we are different to drop, until she recognizes or experiences something beyond that. We have these thoughts all the time, you know. I see you over there. She is drawing all these different images, but wants to go beyond that. Because I could feel that in her I feel very safe. I feel very welcome to allow something more of myself to express itself with her, to say hello back, so I think the reason she is able to capture so many people with their faces just, you know, lighting up, it starts with that intention. She’d like to have this experience over and over again and people can recognize it. She allows that to happen. I don’t feel that she is projecting herself into me per say, but just whatever barrier is between us is melting. When she drew me, I didn’t actually know that she was drawing me. She invited me to do a Sufi dance at her opening. What I could say about the Sufi dance is that I’m trying to open myself to receive everything, to allow all the love of the universe to come into me or just to be aware of it already there, to dissolve the barrier to it flowing back out. So it is also the same thing. I’m trying to melt with her, as I’m spinning around and around until there is some stillness, something internal there through all the commotion and emotion and the dizziness. I didn’t know till afterwards that she was sketching me. I was so amazed that she caught me and also how she depicted my portrait, but maybe not surprised, because that is who she is, I felt. Because she is really a curious, loving, open person, she allows us space to express that back to her.
Christopher Pelham Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”7/2020
Les: Christopher, I think you beautifully said that. Because, from the experience, you felt a sense of connection, and you are a Sufi dancer invited by Loy to enhance the exhibition by creating a universal connection through dance and performance. Your experiences of this was more of a pure energy of why art, at the moment of art making, is so unique and alive.
I remember in my first year of art school at St. Martins in London I once asked one of my teachers if we should make artwork that looks like the stuff that we see in museums. He said that it is better to make something that comes from the heart than something that merely looks like art. And it's that moment of connection that we give to the works is what makes the artwork alive. I think it is important that we can see and feel the moment of connection between the artist and the subjects.
We can see that sense of connections in the “I”s in Luo’s work. We can see a sense of awkwardness and also see that it's not trying to become anything else other than that connection. The idea of monetizing art, making art that fits the museum, art that fits the criticism, making art that is forcing the artists, well not forcing, but enticing the artist to become that other person, the agent of the other systems.
And that Loy comes to New York and says simply I am going to create drawings that don't have to get into these other systems, they are not about politics, they are not about having a museum show, but it's about the need for connection. So, Loy, could you make a comment on that, please?
Loy:Yes, I think it made a very big and good connection between me and the city. Because I can't come to New York and just stay in the house or the studio and do my own thing, I also need social connections. Especially in a pandemic, everyone is panicking. I panicked, too, but everyone panicked. That's one thing. There is another reason is the social responsibility of the artist, as an artist to do something is very important. In my opinion, many good artists always want to do something for the society when they meet important events.
Les: Can you tell me, Loy, where did you find most of the art that you drew? Where in New York?
Loy: The two guys I drew at first are from WeChat, and I just thought the photo was funny. And then there are other people, like Juan, who I know, and when I showed him my work, he said, "Oh, you can paint me." It was the first time a New Yorker asked me to paint him. Then I stayed in the hotel, which had a lot of public space where I could sit and do portraits, and there were people from other countries, and as I sat there, people started asking me to do portraits. But when the pandemic broke out, we were thrown out the door. The hostel is closed, so I need to meet some people on the street. I said, "Do you want to do a portrait? "That's it. It's not easy, but it's fun. I think everyone I draw has a very interesting story.
Rui Wang Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”2/2020
Policeman Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”3/2020
Policeman Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”3/2020
Apartment Manager Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”3/2020
Les: Thank you. I think Anthony would like to make an observation, so over to you, Anthony. Thank you for your comment.
Anthony: Hi, hello. Its a question of observation. Most artists, almost all artists, when they work with pen or pencil, develop a strong signature style which is instantly recognizable. Your portraits are all obviously you that your own hands recognize them. You have a pretty wide variety of pencil treatments, both in coloration, the lights and dark, and actual treatment of the pencil. I wonder if that dictated by the subjects you choose impacted over their character? That is my question.
Loy: This is something that I think is very important because I think we're all emphasizing that art is completely in the artist's heart, but I think portraits are different because painting portraits is not just the artist's business, it's mutual, and you need to communicate with other souls, not just your own. If I don't do portraits, if I do other pure art, maybe I can do whatever I decide on my own, but when I do portraits, I need to respect people, because they are my equals, and I need to respect everyone.
Little Assistant Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”7/2020
Finance Executive Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”5/2020
The Nurse Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”5/2020
The Medic Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”7/2020
Meng: She meant that she chose a particular method to depict each person. She doesn’t want to stay in the same style, she uses a variety of styles for different figures she wants to portray.
She doesn’t want people to see that the portraits come from the same artist, because she really respects each individual. So, she wants to depict these people in unique ways. She uses different styles and pencils so that the strokes are quite different.
Loy: But I didn't do it on purpose, I just did it, And I don't know why the style is different. I don't think about style, I just do it.
The Old Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”3/2020
Passenger on Subway Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Spectator Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Restauranteur Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Dancer Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Dancer Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”4/2020
Engineer Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”9/2020
Laoyu Chen Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
The Mask Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Judge Ginsburg Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”9/2020
Les: Yin Mei, could you speak about the artist’s point of view, being an artist in the Pandemic, and your own observations about what it means being an artist in the Pandemic?
Yin Mei: Thank you, Professor Lesley, thank you. As an performance artist, a working artist face our new condition in New York which is very hard, every venue has been closed. We basically stay at home and of course teaching online, and doing all creative works in our mind, and at home. We have to think, the old way will not be back, we are forced to be even more creative right now, many putting their work online, I think it needs a new revolution to fill the gap. For myself, I am looking back at my unfinished work and previous creations, rethinking about what is the representation of them? This is just one example, many other artists, colleagues of mine, are also creating their work online in the new way. The dancers built floors at home so they can keep working on their bodies. I think this could be a wonderful time in the way that at the given situation. You can complain about it, but the best is to use the energy to think. Giving yourself more time and space to rethinking, just like what Loy was doing, that she is actively participating in New York scene, she creates her portraits, many of us in New York are actively involving or recording day to day lives, studies of small movements ten minutes or five minutes a day which we rarely do. We looking at space differently, we looking at meaning to our space differently, our relationship to surroundings, and our physical effort is different than before. Now it’s time to reflex, re-exam themselves and the world, previous way may never be the way in the future. Now when you making art, you may not want to be shown in museums, dance in Lincoln Center or venues like that. You may be looking at alternative space, like the Site-Specific or on the street, every individual can discover their meaning to connect to people on their own organic moment. I think that is a beautiful realization that the pandemic has brought us to examine.
Meng: I am in complete agreement with you. I think the pandemic really gives artists an opportunity to look at themselves, look at their works, and to generate a new world. I really appreciate Loy’s work. The reason was like what Prof. Les mentioned. I don't think Loy creates artworks with the museum system in mind. She did the work just to suit her own passion, not to fit the museum system. She really connects to her emotion and her feelings about the world to make those pieces, and that's the beauty of those pieces.
Right now, there are so many artists. I’m not saying they're not good artists, but a lot of artists try to make artworks to fit in the art world. They try to do the work to please the museum system, to satisfy the galleries, but that is the problem because we see a lot of similar works – they are not touching. After all, they are so much alike and so much a part of the same system. Loy’s works build a connection between the outside world with the artist’s passion. That is kind of the beauty of her works. At the same time, Loy is a female artist, and from her unique perspective, she sees the world very differently.
Sightseeing Bus Loy Luo sketch 40”*140” 8/2020
Les: David, do you have any contributions?
David: Yes. I am listening to everyone. My thought is that Loy is creating images about the actual contact that brings connection. It is not just the object that she is looking at and noticing. She is looking at an actual image which is the context of her own living connection with another person. And it seems that the realization is that this context is not separate from her own self-existence if I can put it that way. And I’d just like to say that I find that the drawings and the videos go together well. Loy's research interests include assessment of the difference between digital and handmade. What I get is this: her remarks about the purpose and capacity of the drawings, which are handmade, also seem to apply to her video productions. The video images – some of them are here on zoom right now – are edited so that they look like independent moments of human looking that float along as if in a stream of a black background. As each long-take unfolds, it floats, glides up, and slowly disappears; another moving-image capsule appears or floats in. The video images are documents of real events on the street; but as they float on by, they also acquire a uniqueness that personalizes them. There is no doubt that the video images are records of real events in New York; the difference is that the images also represent a personalized framing of each event as an intimate image. The video represents the real as an image and not just as a fact in the understanding. So the medium of video is a document of the physical reality that at times includes Loy Luo walking “on camera”; it also presents moving images of looking personally as an eyewitness at a real event. The discussion we are having is very valuable. This idea of making art in a different way so that it about how people connect with each other is very important.
Les: Anybody else? Kyoko, I also know you wanted to say something.
Kyoko: Yes, just related to Meng Tang’s comments. I’ve been looking for artists to present, artists who have been continuing to make art during the Pandemic, that’s what I’ve been looking for. And then in one day, Loy showed up, and of course it was perfect. And because as a curator, one of the themes I’m pursuing right now is affecting, affecting the time. Just like an artist, similar way by that clarification, so that's why I am really happy to present her this time.
Les: Thank you. Any other comments on that? As we're moving towards the end of our talk, first of all I want to give the floor to anybody who wants to make a closing comment at this time.
We're really grateful for everybody that contributed and especially Loy who is giving us a inside look at the way she's thinking, but also as one way of understanding how someone coming over from China is looking at New York City and what their impressions are, which are always really important to us because the world that we create and manifest is about connections after all. And, Loy is doing it with a sense of a poetic connection so that's really meaningful. But I want to open up, just to ask anybody here if they would like to bring in any final comments, please.
Meng: Can I make a very quick comment? I think that female artists’ work in general modernized the art world. That’s my feeling about it. I think the reason, there are so many reasons, but during the pandemic’s time, I think I see a lot of great female artists’ works that pleased me. I really appreciate that.
Les: I can comment on that. So, what we're also opening up in this discussion is how you’re making art, and about your experience in the Pandemic. So the idea is the Pandemic in the United States. You saw the struggle that we had, in accepting that there was a pandemic in the United States and Europe. For example, a lot of people said in January, February said there was no pandemic, there is no epidemic, but then we realized there was one and now in the United States, we see that there is a challenge with different interpretations of what we should do. Right? Wear a mask? Don’t wear a mask? And artists are creating artwork that talks about either the artist’s condition at this time, but it doesn't necessarily talk about the Pandemic.
Loy: Yes, we don't need a “mask in the mind”. . People are used to thinking about everything in a "masked mind". For example, since there is a pandemic, we should show a special "pandemic face", wear "pandemic clothes", etc. Just like we wear masks all the time, we can't put them down. It's the same thing. But the fact that we're doing art at this time is really talking about the reality of our situation at this time.
Les: Any other comments?
David: I’d like to say something about masks and reducing barriers. I think that the show, with the drawings and now the videos online, is exploring the idea that even in contemporary high-tech urban centers with millions of people, each of us can cultivate a way of being closer to self-existence and to others. The videos show this combination. There are amazing long-takes shot from above with marchers spread across the streets below, and there are close-ups of specific figures like those that Loy Luo interviews on street corners. Both sorts of image float by each other at the same time. This fits what a speaker says in one of the videos. I think his name is Dion Allen. He says this about marching during the pandemic: this is about everyone, and it is about waking-up his neighborhood. For me, Loy Luo’s experiments are tapping into a powerful moment that offers an important message: they suggest that many of the marchers outside are motivated by a feeling or thought like the one she is trying to communicate with the drawings. What is most important is to open up to an awareness of the value of each unique human individual in need. By having a greater awareness of this, our compassion for each other can grow. So I think Loy Luo’s work as a whole helps to bring some unity to the many events that are going on at this time and moment.
Loy: Thank you I also drew portraits of homeless people and beggars. I'm going to draw more homeless people, and basic workers who are working in the Pandemic and supporting the city. There are always a lot of people working outside instead of everyone staying at home. In that case, I can't go out. Many police officers, nurses, doctors and many other people are working on the streets during the pandemic. I respect them.
Vagrant Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Homeless Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”8/2020
Pandemic Porter Loy Luo sketch 11”*14”4/2020
The unemployed Loy Luo sketch 11”*14” 4/2020
Les: Thank you. Anybody else? I’m going bring this over to Kyoko in one moment, but also I want to ask Juan for his comments?
Juan:I think in my opinion, and I see this exhibition every day, I spoke to Loy from the beginning, what I think she's trying to do, in essence, is to unmask the subject. She maintains that we always carry a mask of ourselves. In different times, at different moments, we need different masks, depending on what we are doing, who we are meeting and so forth. So I think her request is, more than anything else, to unmask and reveal that inner selves that we’ll share, that humanity in all of us. Therefore, they are expressed, very elegantly, in the cases. In fact, all the portraits, the drawings, have life in them. None of them are like, simply illustrated faces, lines that move around foreheads and eyes. Every adult has a beautiful expression. You almost want to talk to them. Just end my saying, to me, she is unmasking.
Now, we’ll add a little bit of a comment, a pitch to all of you. WhiteBox in February began an exhibition by Tian Ming, also well known by Chunchen Wang, from Wuhan, we called it “Trapped in Wuhan”, he couldn’t leave Wuhan on January 19 to come to his opening. Since then we have dedicated ourselves to do exhibitions that are really pretty much in tune with the times reflecting the moment we're traversing, this enormous memorial for the rest of our lives and in history as well. We have never been, we suffered 9/11, we suffer this or that, but ever since 1918, we haven't seen it in this country. This is momentous and she is adding to it. Loy. She's wrapping up an entire February through August, series of exhibitions we've done, from trapped in Wuhan, to the immigration of Chinese artists from the nineteen-eighties to the East Village, New York, and then we have some growth and lurching nocturnal whispers of pain, which are all about house and home. In the tragic face, right below the house and home, the inhabitants of the house and home, when they leave their house and home, hit the streets, and Loy finds them, unmasks them, draws them for us. Anthony writes a very beautiful piece for his series for the White Hot magazine, it has already run a series, and would be writing a beautiful article, beautiful pictures of entire pandemic at WhiteBox, Harlem. I would like to thank you, Les, who has been a beautiful moderator, and everybody else who has participated, thank you so much!
Les: Thank you. Kyoko, over to you.
Kyoko: Thank you so much, you are so great and everyone is great and even the tech. Chunchen,is amazing. Everybody is the best here.
Loy: Because every discussion gives me some new ideas. So, thank you, and I'll post my new ideas on my website so we can talk about them again. Thank you! This is really a great discussion.
Les: So, in summary, I want to thank everybody here, our audience that’s watching this, as well as our panelists, but first I want to give a big thank you to Kyoko, and Juan for inviting me as moderator and you’ve been a terrific team. I’m really glad that we had this conversation, hopefully one of many. Terrific to see you, Chunchen Wang from CAFA’s Art Museum in Beijing, thank you so much, it's great to see you again. Also, David Brubaker, from the Wuhan Textile University, Yin Mei from Queens College, Anthony Haden-Guest in New York City, Christopher Pelham, Thank you for sharing your views of being a subject and also performance. Meng Tang, who is teaching at the University of Minnesota, thank you all.
and finally, a big thank you to Loy, our artist today.