Critics’ Picks

Kyung-Me, Papillon de Nuit II (Butterfly of Night II), 2019, ink, charcoal, and graphite on Arches paper, 24 x 36".

Kyung-Me, Papillon de Nuit II (Butterfly of Night II), 2019, ink, charcoal, and graphite on Arches paper, 24 x 36".

New York

Kyung-Me and Harry Gould Harvey IV

178 Norfolk Street
November 15, 2019–January 19, 2020

Quoth Milton’s Satan: “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Kyung-Me certainly does the latter. In her sequential suite of exquisitely proportioned black-and-white drawings, Papillon de Nuit I–VII (Butterfly of Night I–VII) (all works 2019), she transforms the chambers of a covetable modernist home—acquisitions include a five-panel byōbu, a shiny baby grand, infinity mirrors flanked by panes of stained glass à la the Prairie School, and a Rothko—into an unsettling, Escherian memory palace, a spatial and narrative jigsaw whose outlier minutiae insinuate danger (a half-eaten apple in the corner, an open hand on the floor at the picture’s edge), if not verboten lust. A female silhouette stands behind a slatted shoji; a head peeks out from behind a chair facing a Pollock, a sunbeam slicing and shadow-making across the room. Aided by one-point perspective and scrupulous hatching, Kyung-Me weaves an illusionary noir as much about escapism as about the struggle to escape it.

Harry Gould Harvey IV makes a heaven of hell. Like that of his confrere, Harvey’s art takes hold in violated symmetries, though his foraged-wood sculptures and hermetic, written-on paintings exult in an unabashed mysticism. A sequence of oak and walnut sigils titled Radical Empathy hang above and between Kyung-Me’s domestic interiors, as if to ward off, or summon, some malevolent force. The showstopper is Syzygy as Far as the I Can See, a spired altarpiece/pyre of horns, hearts, halos, and apples—that Edenic pitfall again—molded from crimson wax and placed atop a carved base. The shrewd pairing of these young artists heightens the allure of Harvey’s conspiratorial, infernal iconography, the empty occult of Kyung-Me’s bourgeois fantasy. There may be a little evil—the entire exhibition reminded me of Frank Jones’s ominous, dazzling “devil houses”—but these two minds, so devoted to the impeccably handwrought, are anything but idle.