For Iris
Jan 10 - Feb 7, 2020
Gallery 456, New York, NY, USA

In For Iris, Pei-Hsuan Wang presents sculptures and work on paper that reference ‘exotic beasts’ alongside the cargo crates in which the sculptures traveled from overseas. These creatures in real life have been prized as rare specimens amongst colonial discoveries demonstrating power in knowledge and ownership, and are now fetishized and held captive around the world. Similar to mixed-race individuals with white heritage, their stunning representations are often appropriated as surrogates for assuaged authenticity and pacified exoticism in many Western cultures, and as markers for beauty and inherent excellence in others.

Exotic beasts in Pei-Hsuan Wang’s work are entryways into the abstract realm of identity formation dear to the artist and her niece Iris, a first generation biracial Asian American whose active imagination inspired the fantastical groundwork for several of the artist’st projects. Handcrafted by Wang and supported by their own shipping containers, these beastly forms become power objects, guardians, relics of (East-West) transnational power display, and portals to inner dimensions where diasporic individuation takes shape. At the heart of this line of investigation is Wang’s own insecurity with the desire to approximate whiteness and the Occident. By sculpting exotic forms via a model-mold-cast replication process, and building self-portraiture that claims Iris’s Caucasian features, the artist physically addresses her deep, dark yearning to pass as white, becoming Iris’s shadow or doppelgänger.

Related work:

Dearly Beloved
For Iris (Rijksakademie)
Self Portrait As Iris As an Idea

I’ve Left My Body to Occupy Others
When Mountlake Terrace Dreams
You Are My Sunshine


Work list:

Cat I
stoneware, glaze
24 x 17 x 43 in

Cat II
fiberglass, acrylic, paint
25 x 19 x 45 in

stoneware, glaze, luster
14 x 21 x 40 in

Self Portrait As Iris As an Idea
stoneware, glaze
9 x 11 x 17 in

fiberglass, polyester resin, thread
5 x 3 x 2 in

charcoal on paper
32 x 24 in