“O’er the sea that have no beaches
To end their waves upon,
I floated with twelve peaches,
A sofa and a swan.”
– Mervyn Peake, A Book of Nonsense
It’s late already, five or five-thirty. She is sitting at her laptop but not typing. She picks up her cup of tea
and takes two small sips because it’s still hot. She puts it down. She’s supposed to make a video today.
She woke up late this morning and has been futzing around ever since. She had some coffee. She read
the newsletter in her inbox. She dipped into a couple books: Derrida’s Postcard that she bought two years
ago and never finished reading, a new novel by Ingo Niermann that she ordered from Amazon because
no bookstores in town carry it – she’s not a systematic reader. She flipped on the smart TV and watched
half of something dumb. She didn’t feel up to leaving the apartment – it was muggy out even for St. Louis
in the spring. She was aware of a low-level but continuous feeling of anxiety attached with the fact that
she hadn’t started making yet and didn’t have ideas. Her mind flitted about. She thought about an Amy
Yao painting that she’d seen last summer in a show. She considered whether she should order a dinner
from a Asian restaurant that resides in a repurposed Taco Bell. (She can’t go out, she was in severe close
watch of her health condition. She doesn’t often go out these days either way.) On a trip to the bathroom
she noticed she needed a trim of her undercut– it has grown out to a state that it no longer looks queer.
She talked on the phone with an artist friend who had just moved to the countryside. By five o’clock,
though, there was no avoiding the fact that she had only an hour or so left before the working day would
be over, so she played her studio playlist titled Pacific Rose on her Spotify and sit down at her working
station made by a hollow core door and two trestles. She sees that there’s tiny spot on the wall that she’s
never noticed before. It’s only going to take her half an hour or forty minutes to whip out something short
once she gets going, but getting going– that’s the hard part.
– Cole Lu, Daily Activity Diary (on going)
The Millitzer gallery presents Pacific Rose, an exhibition of new works by Cole Lu on view April 22
through May 28, 2017.
The story has two interpretations of its beginnings, one is the story culled from personal memory, and the
other is a fictional landscape. Both contain the dual functionality as queer evidence and gesture. Drawing
on Gertrude Stein’s imperative to “act so that there is no use in a centre”; the sculptural works
determinedly avoid conventional narrative, and de-center the art in the contemporary age of display.
Pacific Rose act as nonsense literature, which creates meaning out of form with an anarchic potential by
making fun of language, presents a challenge to the power visual language has to name, know, and own
the world. It is a parody of sense, and that is the sense of it. The installation presents a space that does
not distinguish between an ocean, a shore, a pool, or a gallery. Rather, it is a borderland that is outside or
beyond language and definition–a space of creative potential. The sculptural works detail an alien’s
identity–as both queer and migrant–with a significant geographical feature: water in the dryland. The
objects we identify within the sculptures: an old book, snow skis, plants, a neon light, concrete, metal,
plastic, faux suede and a rock do not directly reference the ocean or a pool. They speak to loss and
belonging, and they abstractly elaborate on water’s wetness and the vastness of the sea.
Cole Lu is an artist and curator. Her work has been featured in solo and group including Contemporary
Art Museum St. Louis, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, NE), Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St.
Louis, MO), Art Basel Miami Satellite Art Show (Miami Beach, FL), Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts
(Grand Rapids, MI), The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), The Luminary (St. Louis, MO), Los Angeles
Contemporary Exhibitions (Los Angeles, CA), AHHA Tulsa (Tulsa, OK), Roman Susan (Chicago, IL),
CENTRAL BOOKING ARTSPACE (New York, NY), fort gondo compound for the arts (St. Louis, MO),
K-Gold Temporary Gallery (Lesvois Island, Greece) and Invisible Space (Taipei, Taiwan). She has been
awarded residencies at The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), Endless Editions (New York, NY), Vermont
Studio Center Fellowship (Johnson,VT) (forthcoming) and LPP+ Residency at Minnesota Street Project
(San Francisco, CA)(forthcoming). Her Risograph publication, “SMELLS LIKE CONTENT” is in the Artist
book collection of the MoMA Museum of Modern Art Library (New York, NY).