Critics’ Picks

Evelyn Taocheng Wang, Cheongsam No. 4 – Gossip, 2019, digital C-Print, 12 1/2 x 16 1/2".

London

Evelyn Taocheng Wang

CARLOS/ISHIKAWA
88 Mile End Road Unit 4
June 20–July 20, 2019

Evelyn Taocheng Wang’s annotated montage drawings, titled “Eight View of Oud-Charlois, No. 1–No. 8,” 2019, are nonplussed, if sympathetic, dissections of her very ordinary suburban Rotterdam neighbors: an elderly man walking his melancholic Pekingese, a puffer-jacketed family entering a supermarket, an indistinct group converging on a snowy street corner. Vignetted comments like “How come . . .” jar with the delicacy of these affectionately rendered banal scenes to indicate Wang’s uncertainty as to whether or not this is a world in which she ought to take part.

This ambivalence toward the quotidian is staged in an adjacent series of photographs that see Wang leaning against a brick column or sitting in an unremarkably furnished, plant-filled living room that epitomizes homey normalcy. She wears a cheongsam and stares expressionlessly at the camera. In Cheongsam No. 2 – Northern Rage, 2019, the luxuriously patterned dress screams against the restrained Dutch interior. In Cheongsam No. 4 – Gossip, 2019, Wang cradles a paperback, lounging diagonally before a sewing machine, with her face and feet in shadow. The starkly lit black-and-white of the tartan dress bisects the room like a blade.

Two videos address the hopes and anxieties accompanying radical identity alteration. The hand-drawn animation Three Versions of Change, 2018, retells the “Frog Prince” fairy tale, albeit with hideous, kiss-triggered metamorphoses. All does not end well when the disappointed princess smashes the hapless amphibian against a wall. Hospital Conversations, 2018, assembles slow pans of modernized institutional hallways; shots of church congregation clothing being adapted, sewn, and worn; and archival and modern-day footage of cyclists using Rotterdam’s innovatively engineered Maastunnel. Each of these subjects, contemporary or archaic, occupies separate space-time frames, yet all are driven to evolve. Wang seems to suggest that the desires behind “wearing” a city or a set of beliefs by modifying and traversing them may not be so alien from the impulses underlying the transformation of our own bodies.