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Edward del Rosario/ Asuka Ohsawa: It’s All Fun and Games    Nov 22, 2013 - Feb 15, 2014

Ice cold lemonade/winter
Asuka Ohsawa
Ice cold lemonade/winter, 2013
The Wheel
Edward del Rosario
The Wheel, 2013
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In this premier exhibition, two New York based Asian-American artists examine the idea of play from perspectives of psychology, popular culture, and personal history. Because the nature of their works require very rigid planning and precise execution, their production process rarely allows for the flexibility to change their minds or explore different possibilities.While such fixed parameters work well to ensure the successful delivery of paintings of consistent quality and content, the artists for this exhibition instead used a flexible flow of ideas, spontaneous decision making, and unexpected discovery. In other words, they allowed themselves to play.

The whimsical gouache drawings of Asuka Ohsawa (b. 1973) were originally inspired by playing a board game called The Game of Life. 'American values that the game portrays are very capitalist, with a conventional life path marked by things like money-making career, marriage, having kids, family vacation, home ownership, investment, and retirement—with lots of money,' she observed. The unconventional artist became fascinated with the game and its history as originally being created to instruct good morals. “The progression of the game from its origin as a game of morality in the late 19th century to its current form featuring capitalist dreams and achievements fascinated her. 'I started thinking about important milestones that reflect my own life and aspirations, and started making small drawings and hand-painted texts for those things.' Ohsawa combined the elements, playfully arranging them until they made sense as a piece. Some of the works are collage, or collaged pieces were used as a sketch for another piece.

The oil paintings of Edward del Rosario (b. USA 1970) utilize the symbolic visual language of archaic carnivals and the occult to pique the curiosity of the viewer. Del Rosario in this exhibition begins a new episode in his series of allegorical tales featuring enchanted objects, frightening traps, spellbound fates, and the Wheel of Fortune. His detailed, curious characters are part of a larger cast that moves across his body of work, a fairy tale world that features power struggles, wonder, humor, and deception.

Each of the paintings for the exhibition depicts an essential aspect of del Rosario’s symbolic realm. Tarot card icons such as The Tower and The Empress come to life in rich detail. Mysterious and ancientsymbols such as the Labyrinth and the ancient tree of life,Yggdrasil, spring to life in del Rosario’s compelling legends. Interstitial paintings between figures allude to the swirling mythologies from which the characters must discern their destinies: dangerous monster-filled pits, deadly mushrooms, and warnings of 'Game Over' have deep connections not only to mythological stories, but to contemporary amusement practices such as video games. The artist here moves beyond fun, then, to consider the question of fate in its pure form.

That Milan is the site for this global investigation into games is fitting; in fact, the importance of Italy in game history is well known. Scholars trace the origins of Tarot cards to the Milanese Duke Filippo Maria Visconti, who is said to have commissioned the first fortune telling playing cards in the 15th Century; they featured art by Milanese artist Michelino da Besozzo. Francesco de Medici is said to have given a famous board game, the Gioco dell’Oca, as a gift to King Phillip of Spain during the heart of the Renaissance. Since then, fancifully colorful and picturesque board games spread from Italy throughout the Western World: Board games, card games, Tarot Cards, and beyond.

But in fact, the roots of such play may also be Eastern in Nature. In Japan, Picture Sugoroku, or picture-based board games, also existed long ago, and became very popular during the Eddo period (1600-1868). One of the most ancient games, Go, also emerged from Asia and could be the inspiration for Chess. This exhibition, then, a meeting of East and West, ties the worldwide traditions of fun and games together once and for all.

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