Sometimes a drawing is not a drawing. For example, when an artist transcends rendering and goes for something entirely more direct. In the case of Flora Kao and her unique, evocative architectural rubbings, her method of depiction is itself a tactile, durational, almost performative act—making the resulting drawings the artifacts of poignant, physical presence.
Enacted like a contact print or a grave-rubbing, Kao creates images of her chosen locations through extensive touching. Her hand runs over every last inch of her subject, as though seeing with her fingers. Her dark charcoal transfers the imprints and outlines of her buildings onto endless rolls of canvas; the finished works exist at life size. Not content to do a drawing of her chosen places, Kao seeks to create monumental works with their intimate cooperation.
An impressive amount of detail and shape are retained in the image—the porous brick, the smooth concrete, the cement-filled fissures, the void of a window, the wood of a door frame, the tendrils of vines, the cylinder of a sudden pipe, the waves of corrugated aluminum, wires, peeling paint, mortar, plaster, tile, tree. These recognizable motifs combine with Kao’s installation of the works using both free-hanging and wall-mounted sheets in an architectural arrangement, to not so much portray the house as reenact it.
In Homeland, she not only creates a central freestanding structure within four hanging walls, but also wraps the gallery perimeter in a long low garden wall, and a floor-to-ceiling exterior wall, so that the whole inside/outside experience is both an illusion and a reality, like spatial origami, with doors to walk through, solitary but not private. The whole experience feels like a dream, or someone else’s memory. In fact the specific house is a now-destroyed family home in Taiwan, so for the artist, a consciousness of immanent loss infused the undertaking with a palpable, pensive urgency that comes across in the vivid gestural energy of Kao’s technique.
Flora Kao, “Homeland,” September 9 – October 13, 2017 at Gallery 825, 825 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90069, www.laaa.org.