“Morning Glory” adorns Tyler Rollins: second solo for Cambodian Sopheap Pich

CAMBODIA SCULPTURE NEW YORK GALLERY EXHIBITIONS

In his second solo New York exhibition, on at Tyler Rollins Fine Art until 23 December 2011, Cambodian sculptor Sopheap Pich presents a poignant statement on daily life in his homeland through large-scale sculptures of a humble, hardy flower, the morning glory.

Sopheap Pich, 'Morning Glory', 2011, rattan, bamboo, wire, plywood and steel bolts, 533.4 x 261.6 x 188 cm. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Sopheap Pich, 'Morning Glory', 2011, rattan, bamboo, wire, plywood and steel bolts, 533.4 x 261.6 x 188 cm. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

The artist is best known for using the most utilitarian of materials – rattan, bamboo, metal wire and more recently burlap, crushed dirt and beeswax – to transform the invisible, simple and mundane into something sublimely beautiful and moving.

Pich’s first solo New York exhibition, “The Pulse Within“, was more introspective; the artist presented his audience with sculptures of human organs, such as the heart, lungs, and intestines, to highlight traumatic memories from the Khmer Rouge past and convey a message of hope, healing and reconciliation.

While this second exhibition, called “Morning Glory“, continues these quiet reflections, Pich also elaborates on his thoughtful yet unsentimental commentary on sociopolitical aspects of Cambodia: rapid economic development, continuing poverty and a redefinition of moral values.

Sopheap Pich, 'Caged Heart', 2009, wood, bamboo, rattan, burlap, wire, dye, metal and farm tools. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Sopheap Pich, 'Caged Heart', 2009, wood, bamboo, rattan, burlap, wire, dye, metal and farm tools. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

A 13-year-old Sopheap Pich arrived in the United States in 1979 and went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts with a BFA in painting and from the School of Art Institute in Chicago with an MFA in the same subject. He returned to Cambodia for the first time in 2002, where he continues to live and work. “Identifying with my past took some time and persistence,” Pich told Thailand Tatler in July 2011.

Although trained in painting, Pich moved on from this art form and began to create sculptures, a medium which he felt allowed him to connect easily with his fellow Cambodians and “take a journey, to discover something new without erasing the footsteps, the evidence.”

Sopheap Pich, 'Seated Buddha', 2011, rattan, bamboo, wire and plywood, 256 x 220 x 110 cm. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Sopheap Pich, 'Seated Buddha', 2011, rattan, bamboo, wire and plywood, 256 x 220 x 110 cm. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

The process of making his sculptures is laborious; a team of artisans and expert rattan weavers worked for almost six months to create the sculptures in the Pich’s 2011 solo. Morning Glory, the largest piece the artist has made to date, was dismantled and reassembled on location in New York, evoking a sense of displacement and exile and bearing memories of a distant place. Scholar Dr Nora Taylor described the undertaking as “transplanting the morning glory from the Mekong to New York” in an essay accompanying the exhibition (PDF download).

Sopheap Pich, 'Morning Glory 2 (detail)', 2011, rattan and wire, 89" x 43" x 34.5". Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Sopheap Pich’s first breakthrough work was the lung-like Silence (2004). “There was a sense of truth and completeness in the simple, imperfect skeletal forms of the lungs,” says Pich of the piece. The artist followed this work with the highly acclaimed Cycle (2005), which consisted of two interconnecting stomachs and represented family ties and society united around the preoccupations related to this organ, filling it or curing it of diseases.

Sopheap Pich, 'Silence', 2004, rattan and wire, 46 x 26 x 53 cm. Image courtesy artist.

Sopheap Pich, 'Silence', 2004, rattan and wire, 46 x 26 x 53 cm. Image courtesy the artist.

Sopheap Pich, 'Cycle 2 Version 3, 2008, rattan and wire, 203 x 135 x 30 cm. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

Sopheap Pich, 'Cycle 2 Version 3', 2008, rattan and wire, 203 x 135 x 30 cm. Image courtesy Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

About Sopheap Pich

Sopheap Pich is represented by Tyler Rollins Fine Art in the United States and by 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong. His works are held in the collections of a number of major art museums and institutions including Singapore Art Museum and Queensland Art Gallery, Australia. A large bronze version of Cycle (2009), was completed by the artist for collection by King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Saudi Arabia.

In 2009, work by the artist was featured in two of Asia’s most prestigious art events, The 4th Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale in Japan and The 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Australia, and is on show until January 2011 at the Asian Art Biennial in Taichung City, Taiwan. Plans for 2012 include participation in a group show at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) from April 2012 to March 2013.

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Related Topics: Cambodian artists, Sopheap Pich, sculpture

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