My dear friend Sherry Wong's second solo show opened at I-20 gallery last Friday night to considerable collector interest.
Seven out of 13 paintings, priced from $4,500 to $10,000, sold, with another three put on reserve by a major Connecticut collector who already owns three paintings by Wong. Three paintings sold to a significant Japanese corporate collection, and dealers Leo Koenig and Michael Steinberg also purchased paintings. My wife and I picked up the show's signature piece, Saleem, a moody, erotic treatment of a Muslim man in a swirling pool of water.
Sherry's show had its origins in "Midsummer," an annual, informal retreat of her college friends, which has met in rented houses across the U.S. every summer. These are young couples, worried about turning 30, trying to be faithful to each other and their ideals. They are professionals, working as bond traders, attorneys, hedge-funders and architects. Some have infant children, some couples split up and yet always manage to get back together. It's a 21st-century "Big Chill."
Employing her considerable drawing skills, Wong, a Muslim who grew up in Turkey, universalizes her disparate friends by giving them expressions of sly ecstasy which she feels represents her Sufi beliefs. Desire is tempered by self-doubt, joy by mortality. In one canvas, Sherry represents herself as Jacques-Louis David's expired Marat, holding a list of her boyfriend's alleged female admirers, while the fellow stares goofily in the foreground.
Conversely, portraits of other couples exude a whimsical confidence of falling apart and reuniting. It is satisfying, as I do, to know the people depicted in Wong's serious meditations, but probably more pleasing not to. This crowd is addicted to karaoke and I-20 hosted an emotional after-party at a Village karaoke joint after the opening.
Here the subjects of the show wailed out their childlike frustrations in a haze of smoke and sake. Sherry, a connoisseur of Broadway, took the floor to sing One Boy from Bye Bye Birdie, her signature number, while male admirers snapped photos of her. Her longing for the perfect guy, by someone who can often create the perfect painting, careened past the sofas, up the stairs and into the streets.
Sometimes life, as your scribe happily knows, can be benignly reduce to the One. For now, Sherry Wong is the one to follow in Chelsea.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-editor of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).