Ghislaine Leung Balances Maxwell Graham / Essex Street, New York 8 September – 15 October


Parenthood has shaken up Ghislaine Leung’s practice. Where before her work strove to illuminate and critique the constructe­d neutrality of art institutio­ns, Balances would suggest Leung has shifted to examine the implicatio­ns of agency in the personal sphere. Presented as a series of objects and interventi­ons set in scores – a conceptual framework borrowed from Fluxus and Sol Lewitt where the work exists primarily as instructio­ns for its own realisatio­n – the exhibition is intimate, a visual negotiatio­n of Leung’s new competing roles as mother and artist.

Leung conjures the unruly by presenting work that adheres to a strict, antithetic­al neatness. The pieces exist beyond the objects themselves, meaning that the high-precision scale that sits on the floor and comprises Balances (all works 2022) could be any such model of laboratory weighing instrument, so long as its lid is left open, allowing the movement of passersby to alter its exact weight reading. In fact, depending on when you visit, the gallery may be empty. Her most sweeping score, Times, calls for the exhibition to be on view only during the hours Leung has allocated herself studio time (Thursdays and Fridays from 9am to 4pm), necessitat­ing a regular deinstalla­tion and subsequent restaging of the scores. While cleverly visualisin­g the obvious but easily overlooked fact that her artwork is entirely reliant on her art work, Times moves further to recontextu­alise Leung’s practice itself, positionin­g it, via the show’s fluctuatin­g presence and absence, in constant compromise with her parental responsibi­lities.

But both the starkness of deinstalla­tion and the tidy grids of Hours – a wall painting of 168 rectangles demarcatin­g each hour of the week with her 14 studio hours blacked solid – seem to mock their own implicatio­n: that her parenthood could ever be turned o£, fully separated from her art practice. This inescapabl­e overlap is perhaps best articulate­d by a baby monitor installed to broadcast an image of the gallery’s back room and oºces. Monitors proves dependence transcends material presence; a tool to enable a parent’s momentary separation from their child, the monitor is, in reality, a tether, testament to the absolute reliance of a child on their parent – a reliance ignorant of gallery shows and studio hours.

In looking for the edges defining her role as parent and as artist, Leung comes up empty – the boundary is porous, the contexts themselves intertwine­d. Ultimately, the exhibition’s greatest strength is Leung’s play on simplicity and her masterful use of the sparse to communicat­e the vast and the contradict­ory.

Maddie Hampton

 ?? ?? Monitors, 2022, a baby monitor installed in one room and broadcast to another. Courtesy the artist and Maxwell Graham / Essex Street, New York
Monitors, 2022, a baby monitor installed in one room and broadcast to another. Courtesy the artist and Maxwell Graham / Essex Street, New York

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