Critics’ Picks

Albert Yonathan Setyawan, Radiance of Being, 2019, 216 terracotta pieces, 60 x 60 x 2".

Albert Yonathan Setyawan, Radiance of Being, 2019, 216 terracotta pieces, 60 x 60 x 2".


Albert Yonathan Setyawan

Mizuma Gallery
22 Lock Rd
October 31–December 15, 2019

Subtle, soothing, surprising: Encountering Albert Yonathan Setyawan’s ceramics and works on paper has a becalming effect, his repetitive geometries devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter. Yet, despite their tranquility, his art demands a prolonged reflection in which a viewer’s impressions may clash or become undone. The eye roams, and the brain roams with it. You think you get it, and then you don’t.

A rigorous simplicity governs all of the forms in “Variations on Symmetry,” the Bandung-born artist’s second exhibition here. This remains true even in works for which he assembles multiple elements to create a single shape. One such construction, Radiance of Being, all works 2019, brings together 216 pieces of unglazed, slip-cast terra-cotta clay, each molded into a Hamsa hand, meticulously arranged in concentric circles to constellate a vibrating, Op-ish mandala. In Subliminal Fire Mandala, Setyawan exploits the pictorial potential of the grid, arraying nearly two hundred teardrop-shaped pieces of clay in nine squares to realize a modernist composition. His ceramics are structured to hold science and spirituality in fruitful tension.

Elegantly rendered gouache paintings take Setyawan’s obvious interests in architectural experience to a more literal degree, and his abstract reflections on Romanesque tropes such as arcades, individual cells, vaulted spaces, and spiral staircases elicit a strangely tranquil vertigo in works like Hallucinatory ArchwayPhantom Chambers, and Mind Corridors. As those titles suggest, if you spend enough time with Setyawan’s art, you will get lost.