Tenaya Lee Izu
Platitudes for Hungry Ghosts
May 12 - June 17, 2018
Opening reception:
Saturday, May 12, 7—10pm

I was looking out at the Sierra Nevadas,
The mountains, the railroads, the suburbs, the deserts.
Those people did everything right

Pledge to take a man,
Pledge to keep your children,
Pledge to cheerfully,
And without any reservations whatsoever,
Cook them canned food.

I wanted it to be real dark and gross. Neglect, anger, ugly, bad. I thought about the punishment of slow suffocation, the magician who cuts his hot female assistant in half like a sandwich, whatever idiot came up with the phrase, “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.” But as I made stuff, this happened instead.

- Cindy Gao

Through an array of sculptural works, Izu examines collective histories and cultural violence. In a series evocative of Wedgwood ceramics, they replace its representative aristocratic imagery with narratives culled from the lives of the artist’s maternal and paternal grandmothers. If the china cabinet has historically acted as a domestic monument to inheritance, Izu forensically deconstructs this memorial, soliciting its hungry ghosts - insatiable spirits born of traumatic deaths, their stories neglected or intentionally hidden.

In another work, railroad spikes pierce a slab of countertop granite, conflating the brutality of transcontinental railroad construction with the aspirational flourish of Westward expansion and suburbanization. The tile sits atop a plastic folding table, distinguished by its unusual height. Each leg of the table is stilted, three by ceramic renderings of tin cans, and the fourth, a clay statue of Hachikō – the Japanese farm dog who famously waited at an Akita train station for 9 years after his master’s death.

At this intersection of longing and denial Izu lays bare a notable truth – remembrance brings nothing back, but forgetting is a second death.

Tenaya Lee Izu (b. 1992) lives and works in New York City. They received a B.A. in Visual Arts and Comparative Ethnic Studies from Columbia University in 2014. This is Tenaya's first solo show.