Last Look at Works by Hsin-Hsi Chen and Amanda Kates at doris-mae

By East City Art Editorial Team on June 18, 2014
Photo courtesy of doris-mae.
Amanda Kates (left) and Hsin-Hsi Chen (right). Photo courtesy of doris-mae.


Meet the Artists Reception: Thursday, June 19 from 6pm to 8pm


Closing day is Saturday, June 21 from 12pm to 5pm.

Oftentimes, it is the very things that are different about work in an exhibition that are meant to intrigue. Such is the case with the works of Hsin-Hsi Chen and Amanda Kates at doris-mae.

Hsin-Hsi Chen (project space) has used one tool the duration of her career—the modest pencil. She has done so out of an interest in seeing where this medium of choice will take her. From her earliest beginnings, her pieces were constructed on paper, flat against the wall or table. But her signature style emerged, and her work was nothing but flat. Hsin-Hsi has a way with graphite and can create depth, light, shadows and angles that couldn’t existing naturally on the flat surface. The works were sublime, peaceful, intriguing, beautiful.

Always looking for a challenge, Hsin-Hsi began to construct new surfaces to work on mainly using wood that she hand-cut precisely. The sculptural pieces were gessoed and painted a flat white upon which she placed her mark-making. They would take on more dimensions and present new challenges for the artist. The alterations to the surface are sublime and complex. Later, she would choose to leave some of the natural wood surface revealed in an extension of the series.

At doris-mae, Hsin-Hsi was ready for the next progression in her work. Taking all the elements she was known for, Hsin-Hsi created a full room installation. She began with a scale model of the project space upon which she drew. Disassembling the model, it was scanned and scaled to actual room size. In these files, Hsin-Hsi made the adjustments to her work that allowed for the precision, depth and shadows and light that were familiar in her earlier work. The result is a completely immersive experience in gray-scale that blows the mind.

Amanda Kates brings a different approach to her work. Her paintings are brash, colorful, unpredictable. Where Hsin-Hsi’s work creates a sense of calm in the viewer, Amanda’s has a tendency to create anxiety. She willfully uses color, big strokes, layering in a way that is exciting and stimulating.

Amanda’s work, in many ways, typifies the anxiety of the modern age. Taking cues from culture and social media, which she finds distracting and disturbing, Amanda builds from a general image that is recognizable. In three of her pieces, these are people—three of the richest men in America. In other works, a giant brain or an early day surgical theater.

These images are only a point of reference for Amanda, as she prefers to work with line and color to address formal elements. She paints intuitively and responsively to the marks around her. If the result is influenced by the inner workings of her mind, then we are much richer for it.

Looking at Hsin-Hsi’s installation, one gets a sense of calm, a response created from the uniformity of line, gradations of black to gray to white. We’ve referred to the projoect space playfully as Hsin-Hsi Chen’s Infinite Zen Chapel for it feels meditative. But, in the next room over, if you allow yourself time to get lost in Amanda Kates’ vibrant color, disconnected lines and thoughts, you might just bypass anxiety and reach a different state of nirvana.

Gallery hours at doris-mae:

  • Saturday and Sunday: noon to 5 pm

doris-mae is located on the second floor at 1716 14th Street NW. For more information call 202-299-0027, email, or visit