Critics’ Picks

On a Day So Calm, “as it got dark, the water stopped”, 2006, ink, marker, gouache, and collage on paper, 15 x 15".

On a Day So Calm, “as it got dark, the water stopped”, 2006, ink, marker, gouache, and collage on paper, 15 x 15".

New York

Crystal Liu

Hosfelt Gallery
531 West 36th Street
January 6–February 17, 2007

San Francisco–based artist Crystal Liu imbues the flora and fauna in her work with imaginative narratives and sparse sophistication, offering a refreshing alternative to the “cute overload” imagery endemic to much contemporary art about “nature.” For her New York solo debut, “Before I Ever Dreamed You,” Liu exhibits wool-covered works, other collages, and drawings that belie the popularity of her subjects through meticulous compositions, restrained gestures, and low-key color palettes. Liu titles her series with poetic metaphors and uses subtitles to express an ominous—yet curiously absent—danger. In On a Day So Calm, “as it got dark, the water stopped”, 2006, generic cutouts of owls perch uniformly on delicate ink-and-marker tree limbs, while leaves composed of green-and-white- and wood-grain-patterned paper are clustered in small groups. One might assume there is a Conceptual facet to her art, like Lisa Caccioppoli’s silhouetted owls (which comment on the “death of painting”), but other works in the series, such as On a Day So Calm, “there will be no more lullabies”, 2006—in which the owls and branches plunge toward the bottom of the page as if in forest-clearing freefall—acknowledge a certain amount of meaning anchored in the world beyond the works’ edges. Though Liu may not always portray the perils that disturb her ecological subjects, she seems to suggest that these dangers exist as more than a passing trend.