East City Art Reviews—Intersection at Cody Gallery

By Phil Hutinet on December 11, 2023
Partial view of Intersection. Photo courtesy Cody Gallery.

Nestled on the second floor of a modern glass tower on Glebe Road in Arlington, Virginia, Marymount University’s Cody Gallery offers a loft-like atmosphere ten blocks from the main campus. The rectangular gallery space is accessible by elevator or by a wide, open stairwell which seamlessly connects to the lobby. Currently on view at the gallery, Intersection features two Northern Virginia-based artists—Chee Keong Kung, presenting sculptures, and David Carlson, showcasing recent abstract paintings. Both artists hail from distinct cultural backgrounds. Carlson, born in Champaign, Illinois, spent his formative years in the Midwest prior to establishing himself in Arlington. Kung, who resides in McLean, draws upon his background in architecture and childhood spent on the island nation of Singapore.

The excellent curation of Intersection allows for visual continuity and engagement between seemingly disparate materials. Coupled with the gallery’s contemporary design, the viewer is able to experience and understand the work with little textual interference.

Yet, even if you see the exhibition without reading any further, I’ll point out some interesting connections in the next paragraphs. There are subtle relationships that might not be obvious, especially in how the single line emerges as a common thread between Carlson and Kung’s work.

Chee Keong Kung Cloud Drift 2. Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

Taking up the entire back wall of the gallery, Kung’s monumental sculpture Cloud Drift 2, a masterful composition of steel, spray paint, and tape, immediately attracts attention, drawing  the viewer into the space. Cloud Drift 2 epitomizes aesthetic simplicity with its clear outlines of cylinders and cubes. Of particular note is a single, clean and dominant steel line which cuts all the way across the wall as well as the other shapes in the work.  This intersecting line creates the exhibition’s visual continuity and establishes an element which connects all of the works.

David Carlson Invariables Variably. Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

On wall to left of Cloud Drift 2, in David Carlson’s Invariables Variably, the single line reappears on left side of the canvas.  Not straight like steel, the painted gold line gently meanders harmoniously with the amorphous shapes in Carlson’s painting.  Pairing Carlson’s painted line with Kung’s steel line in Cloud Drift 2 creates a visual conversation facilitated by the commonality of the form. The strategic placement of Carlson’s paintings on either side of Cloud Drift 2 buffers Kung’s other sculptures.

Chee Keong Kung Slow Light XVI, XVIII, XIX & XX. Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

Kung’s Slow Light series further exemplifies his exploration of three-dimensional works only in smaller format. These works, crafted from wood and adorned with mixed media, introduce an added layer of complexity to his process. Unlike the outlined shapes of Cloud Drift 2, the Slow Light series offers more a more complex composition, engaging viewers with the integration of steel and mixed media painted over wood. Kung’s smaller works are placed between Cloud Drift 2 and Carlson’s paintings which seemingly act as an intermediary between a massive installation and a smaller, individual work.  Singular steel spokes protruding from the wood base in the Slow Light series connect with Intersection’s single line theme.

Chee Keong Kung Slow Light XVII. Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

While the steel spokes found in the Slow Light series retain the silver color of unfinished steel, there is one notable exception.  Slow Light XVII’s steel spoke is painted fire-engine red.  Hung on the opposite wall from its four series counterparts XVI, XVIII, XIX & XX, the sculpture is exhibited on its own.  Like the other works in the series, one of Carlson’s paintings separates it from Cloud Drift 2.  To the right of Slow Light XVII, the line reappears in Carlson’s Beyond Time There’s Constant, only this time it is reddish, less bright than in Slow Light XVII and almost burgundy.  The red line moves between the two works marrying the two- and three-dimensionality of the mediums.

David Carlson Beyond Time. Photo by Phil Hutinet for East City Art.

The curation of Intersection requires recognition for the thoughtful way in which the work is presented, effectively providing the viewer with smooth transitions from one work to the next. Cloud Drift 2 could overpower the other works in Intersection. However, the continuity of the works’ placement, starting with Cloud Drift 2 and extending to Carlson’s paintings and Kung’s smaller sculptural works, creates an impressive visual cohesion where each work is nevertheless highlighted and valued.

True to the exhibit’s title, its nuanced exploration of form, line, and collaboration between Kung and Carlson manages to showcase the intersection of their strengths without relying on texts or other embellishments.  The works’ meticulous installation guides visitors through the seamless and subtle connection between Kung’s monumental Cloud Drift 2 to the intricacies of his smaller sculptural works and further, to Carlson’s nuanced paintings. The exhibition is an immersive experience that invites viewers to appreciate exquisite complexities within simple forms, the parallel appearances of the single line in each composition, despite their differing mediums.

Intersection is on view through Friday, December 15, 2023.  Cody Gallery is located at 1000 N Glebe Road, 2nd Floor, Arlington, VA 22201.  Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.  A gallery attendant is present during the viewing.