For Black Box,
her new exhibit at Art League Houston, Houston-born artist Phi Phi Oanh arranged black boxes on the floor; they look like caskets ready for burial or shut in a tomb. Visitors can stroll through the somber rows of boxes, which are topped with lacquer paintings. For Aftertaste
, she painted a half-eaten dinner on the table; the impression is that the members of a party promptly left, but details such as chopsticks balanced on top of bowls signal they might plan to return. The idea of human absence appears again and again in her deserted scenes. A motorcycle without a rider is still in motion in Motocorpse;
a pile of slippers sit in a doorway waiting for their owners in Passage
; and a romantic waterway begs for a couple in a gondola in Watertight Compartments
. Where are the people? Are they on their way, or inside black boxes of their own?
When you take into account Oanhs medium the meticulous art of Vietnamese lacquer painting death reappears. Just as a casket is meant to preserve the body it holds, the protective lacquer ensures Oanhs works will rest in peace for eternity. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through February 22. 1953 Montrose. For information, call 713-523-9530 or visit www.artleaguehouston.org. Free.
Mondays-Saturdays. Starts: Jan. 25. Continues through Feb. 22, 2008