History and mystery play out in Aldrich’s two new exhibitions for 2022

A pair of exhibits that opened in January at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield may at first glance seem quite dissimilar.

The backgrounds of the artists, their media, and their subjects are vastly different, but on closer inspection, the work of the two not only complements each other, but shares some similarities. Each making their debut in a solo exhibition in a museum here, Milano Chow is Asian American and Duane Slick is Indigenous. The two artists create their art with a unique voice, born from heritages that are important elements of the American experience. One artist explores ideas of alienation through her architecture-centric works while the other skillfully balances modern abstraction with Native American mythology.

“Duane Slick: The Coyote Makes The Sunset Better” premieres January 17 through May 8 and features 90 paintings, prints, photographs and videos made in the past five years. “Milano Chow: Prima Facie” will be presented from January 17 to May 8 with more than a dozen new works on paper covering two and three dimensions.

“Both exhibitions clearly fit into Aldrich’s core mission of providing opportunities for emerging and mid-career artists at critical points in their careers,” said museum director of exhibitions Richard Klein.

At the start of his career, Slick painted mainly landscapes, but before the 50th birthday of Christopher Columbus (1992), alternative galleries and some museums and groups held counter-exhibitions in protest. Slick was invited to show his art with a group of native artists. It was around this time that his work began to tell the stories of his heritage and the coyote became a key motif. Slick began to collect stories from his parents and Native American poetry.

“I was just interested in what kind of voices they had and decided to let the trickster character, the coyote, start doing the work for me,” he said.

Chow methodically creates highly architectural monochrome collages, almost like blueprints, but retaining an air of ghostly mystery. A series of self-possessed women roam in and out of these landscapes and the viewer wonders who they could be and their stories.

“I love melodramas about women in distress and movies about alienation in cities, even though the women in my work tend to be distant and less emotional,” Chow said. When asked if these women could share their stories with the public, she replied that they probably wouldn’t speak and instead would observe the world around them quietly.

Using reference images from architecture and art history books, technical drawings, blueprints and lifestyle magazines, Chow chooses a variety of striking architectural focal points in which to place. his female subjects. Cornices, eaves, window treatments and furniture create a backdrop where time ceases to exist for these “paper dolls” the artist pulls from vintage fashion and lifestyle magazines. Watching these women recluse in grandiose settings, the artist explores the themes of voyeurism, alienation, isolation, gender and social order.

The coyote is a powerful and long-standing figure in Native American culture and both demigod and trickster, he is known to impart wisdom and folly. In his art, Slick exploits this motif as a fluid subject, constantly evolving in his intentions as well as in his character.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum is located at 258 Main Street in Ridgefield.

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