The subdued psychic energy that is sometimes present in Li-lan’s work was well revealed in this two-part exhibition, which featured a 15-year retrospective of her drawings as well as a review of more recent canvases.
The drawings were a brilliant addition. Not only did they demonstrate the evolution of Li-lan’s themes from ruled notebook pages to ledgers, commercial papers, and a variety of postal materials, but their scale made internal relationships seem more intense. Minute changes occur in color, surface, and linear structure. Different shades of white become part of the dynamic, and even the nuances within a single postal cancellation become important. Saturated and reflected light made the works radiant.
The issues in the paintings broaden as enlarged proportions and bolder pigment contrasts contribute to an edgy pull between form and content. An envelope may suggest an object in the Pop sense, even as it insists on the integrity of the flat surface in the Minimalist manner. Colorful interpretations of stamps from many nations complicate the imagery.
Nederland: 50 + 20 Cent – 1989
Li-lan displays an ironic vein in several works that comment on the image-making process. A color bar code in Nederland: 50 + 20 Cent (1989) reminds us that it is a painting of a transparency and challenges our conventional understanding of the reproduction and its role in regard to the original image.