Paul Chan, 1st Light, 2005. Digital video projection. 14 minutes, edition of 5. Courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery, New York.
Paul Chan, 1st Light, 2005. Digital video projection. 14 minutes, edition of 5. Courtesy Greene Naftali Gallery, New York.

Paul Chan: 1st Light

October 6, 2006–January 7, 2007

Opening Reception:
Friday, 6 October 2006, 6:00 – 8:00p.m.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum is pleased to present an exhibition of recent work by Paul Chan. Organized by The Fabric Workshop and Museum, the exhibition is guest curated by Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and in addition to works in video, the exhibition includes a selection of drawings. Paul Chan: 1st Light opens with a reception Friday, 6 October at 6 p.m. and is on view through 6 January 2007.

The exhibition at FWM features 4th Light, Chan's most recent work in his acclaimed series of digital video projections, as well as 1st Light, the first work from the series that was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. A silent, 14-minute digital animation, 1st Light simulates diffused imagery created by light and shadow cast from an unseen window. Beginning with a prismatic, gorgeous pool of radiant colored light, tracks the course of a day from dawn to night. Against the background of shifting light everything else appears in silhouette. A telephone pole and street light are the only objects that remain grounded and orient us in a world where everyday objects, including cell phones, laptops, bicycles, tires, and trucks float upwards. The tranquility of the graceful, dream-like dance of objects in space is shattered when the silhouette of first one body, then another, and another, fall from the sky.

For many, the falling figures in the work recall the horrific sight of victims falling from the World Trade Center attacks. At the same time, they suggest a tradition of apocalyptic images in Western art. 1st Light also contemporizes the allegory known as "Plato's cave," where shadows stand in for the idea of how difficult it is, in times of social tumult, to tell the difference between reality and illusion. Chan's figures fall and are brutally erased in startling contrast and speed to the shadow of our possessions and everyday objects that rise upwards and gently disappear.

Working in a variety of mediums, from video to installation to drawing, Paul Chan has achieved much acclaim for both the Light series and his digital animations that blend a novel drawing style some have likened to South Park or The Simpsons with deep philosophical reflections on politics, war, and life in the present tense. He has been involved in the aid group Voices in the Wilderness (with whom he spent an unsanctioned month in Iraq) and participated in creating The People's Guide to the Republican National Convention (an agitprop map of New York City for use by protesters and delegates in 2004). Yet while such activities may not appear to directly inform his art practice, they tie into his general insistence on "hallucinating" different relationships in contemporary society: between the sacred and the secular, the high and the low, the poetic and the pornographic, drawing comparisons to such artists as Chris Marker and William Kentridge.

About the Artist
Paul Chan was born in Hong Kong in 1973 and was raised in Nebraska. He received an MFA in Film, Video, New Media from Bard College in 2002 and a BFA, Video Digital Arts from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. Chan's work in video and digital art has been exhibited worldwide for the past several years. Recent solo exhibitions include: Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; Galleria Massimo De Carlo, Milan (2006); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2005). Group exhibitions include: Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York; Uncertain States of America, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson; Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland; Herning Art Museum, Denmark (2006); Utopia Station, curated by Molly Nesbit, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Brazil; I Still Believe In Miracles, Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris; Greater New York, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York; New Work/ New Acquisitions, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; 8th Biennale d'Art Contemporain de Lyon, France (2005); Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (2004). Chan has lectured and taught in the Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, among other institutions. He currently lives and works in New York.