Isaac Tin Wei Lin @ Print Center Philadelphia

Isaac Tin Wei Lin’s current exhibition at the Print Center is his first solo show in the Makeready series, entitled One of Us. Consisting of a silkscreen installation, 26 gouache paintings, and a freehand mural, the framed gouache drawings greet us and reveal a bit of the extensive processes in the exhibition. More interesting as a group than they are individually, the power of these sketches is fixed to the creativity found in difference. Each seems to be an unsystematic exploration of formal relationships: solid to open, curved to jagged, contrast to complement. The Space 1026 ethos runs through these works, with the emphasis on exploration and investigation and hand-worked art.

One of Us, Installation, 2010. Photo courtesy John Pyper.

The installation is centered around a pattern inspired by non-latin alphabet calligraphy, printed in edition of 650, and pasted onto the walls and floors of the space. When viewed with 3-d glasses, the high-contrast patterns starts moving and space opens up. The floor you are standing on gets deeper and you are not sure where the floor begins and ends.

One of Us, detail of calligraphy, 2010. Photo courtesy of John Pyper.

It would not be hard to read psychedelia into this installation. The odd floor layout with six foot cartoon characters interrupting your movement, the intense pattern covering every surface, and the high contrast colors unrelentingly poke at your eyes and brain. I agree with the gallery handout that his work offers a “contrast to the sixties retro work,” but rather than referencing older and culturally loaded psychedelia (Like Justin Lowe’s Matrix 159 at Wadsworth Athenaeum) Wei Lin instead creates an attack on our contemporary senses. The references to arabic and hebrew text shift our paranoid minds to the middle-east. The oversized cartoons bloom into fearful exaggerations, impacting how large we feel. These nervous images command the space, leaving very little to consider beyond it.

One of Us, Detail of mural, 2010. Photo courtesy of John Pyper.

The dense patterns, expert color separations, and skillful overlays matched with the playful depth created by the installation and the 3-d glasses form a riot of information to untangle. If letting the images just wash over your eyes and wander freely is too much, you can always rest your eyes on the relatively peaceful hand-painted mural of calligraphic lines surrounding a circle. But even this mural is surrounded by hand-painted line work, that in a faulty mind (altered somehow) could find their vital motion alarming.

Isaac Tin Wei Lin’s One of Us will be on view at the Print Center through November 20th.

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