Alumna Susan Chen '20 in Solo Show at Night Gallery
BY Catherine Fisher, October 6, 2021
Alumna Susan Chen ’20 is featured in the solo exhibition I Am Not a Virus at Night Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, on view until October 23, 2021. This is Chen’s first exhibition at this gallery and announces the New York and Connecticut-based painter’s West Coast debut.
This show engages heavily with the racial inequities of the COVID-19 pandemic. In these new paintings, “the artist collaborated with twenty-six different sitters of Asian and Asian American descent living throughout the United States.” Chen foregrounded the technological impacts of the pandemic as well by “locating her subjects through various social media platforms, then paint[ing them] via Zoom in real time.”
Although Chen was unfamiliar with her subjects, she worked to capture a strong sense of humanity in each person. These “compositions... illuminate the experiences, desires, and emotions of her sitters… [fostered through] Chen’s attention to detail: from nail polish bottles to birth control pills, the objects in Chen’s compositions are rendered in the same heavy brushstrokes as the people they are connected to.”
Chen’s focus on Asian American identity is not a new theme in her work. However, “after the rise in hate crimes against Asians in the wake of COVID-19, Chen’s practice took on a new impetus... a sense of directness and urgency.” One painting in particular, a self-portrait entitled I Am Not the Kung Flu, calls out the violence committed against Asian Americans in the wake of this epidemic. The artist “captures herself wielding a taser with an array of self-defense weapons scattered across the table in front of her. A pepper gel canister, a whistle, tear gas, a personal alarm, a pocket knife.”
Chen received her MFA from Columbia University in 2020 and her BA from Brown University in 2015. In August 2020, Chen presented her first solo exhibition, On Longing, at Meredith Rosen Gallery. She is a 2020 Hopper Prize Winner and a 2019 AXA Art Prize finalist. Her work has been featured in New American Paintings and reviewed by The New York Times, Hyperallergic, Artsy, Artnet, Art & Object, and Observer, among others. She divides her time between New York City and Hartford, CT.