November 17December 17, 2001
Phong Bui: A New InstallationNovember 17December 17, 2001
Everyone who visits Phong Bui's cluttered Brooklyn studio is astonished by his at once whimsical and reverent mastery of the history of art: there are analytical cubist paintings, abstracted landscapes, huge old books crammed with obsessive meditation drawings, delicate mobiles, and crazy sculptural constructions.
Over the past several years, from the lush and elegiac Homage to Meyer Schapiro to the elegant Homage to Taitlin, Bui's work has increasingly morphed off the two dimensions of canvas and paper and up onto the ceiling, down onto the floor, and out into the air. Although Bui's installations are informed by his engagement with cubism and with Arshile Gorky's taut, lyrical sense of line, Bui refuses to be limited by a single idiom or a predictable signature style; his installations are a kind of drawing and painting in space, an agile and polymorphous dialectic between history and the continuous present; his art is a form of thinking and is in constant motion.
Formally refined and allusive, Phong Bui's installations also breathe an extemporaneous freedom. There are goofy, compulsive polka-dots that spell out the names of great artists, there are passages of pure, sensuous painting. Lengths of painted twine loop, angle, and crisscross, and sheaths of plexiglass angle out from the wall. There are curious wooden ramps, dangling styrofoam balls, fluorescent tubes, mirrors, mounds of colored sand, torquing constructions. Whereas the surrealists sought to depict the unconscious, Bui's work often evokes the visionary innocence of a child's imagination: the objects drawn into the magnetic field of his installations become playful, mysterious, and saturated with possibilities. One might think of a Phong Bui installation as an inner theater, rigorously controlled yet abundant with pleasure, beauty, and memory.