Mirrors: Trey Abdella's Intense Mash-Ups @ KÖNIG SEOUL
After a successful Berlin introduction with the gallery last September, Trey Abdella recently opened his Korean solo debut with KÖNIG SEOUL. Entitled Mirrors, the show present's Brooklyn-based artist's ability to notice and well, mirror "the haunting bits of banality and the horror of the mundane". Both self-reflective or even self-critical and permeated with mirrored imagery, these exceptionally crafted mixed media pieces present another bold step through the walls of convention for the artist we've featured Winter 2020 issue and his mind-boggling practice.
"I love glass. I've mixed in a lot of glass beads. I also love painting water. I'm a sucker for liquids of all kinds," Abdella told us, so it was really a matter of time when the reflective quality of these elements would come to the surface. After a number of works in which suggestive reflections were merely one of the high points in his gripping creations, the West Virginia-born artist had given this effect a center stage in this new body of work. And I say "creations" because the days of labeling Abdella's work as paintings have now been long gone. By combining hyper realistic painting elements or creating realistic textures through self-invented methods with sculpted and appropriated resin sections, plus the addition of ready-made objects ranging from broken glass for additional shine and reflection to actual functional clocks, the line between painting, sculpture, and assemblage, has never been blurier.
And speaking of blur, there is a seductive cinematic approach to the way Abdella is focusing, composing, and illuminating his visuals, in which the mirroring images feel like a fitting, if not inevitable element. Comprising 6 large scale pieces, the largest one being a jaw-dropping spider web-like sculptural installation as a monument to the "web of lies", there are countless points of replication in these pieces, culminating in the only all-painted work, a reflection mayhem that is Never Enough, 2021. Constructing narratives, creating tensions, playing up the atmosphere, or evoking relatable experiences, these obscured impressions tell stories of visit to the dentist, bullying, school trouble, late night car rides, etc. With some being more theatrical than others, it's the frequent appearance of a terrified and/or scared pair of eyes that engulfs the entire scene with hair-raising ambiance.
Parallel to how Abdella's technique is pushing the limits of what's realistic and what's actually real, these images exaggerate those everyday moments that might feel nerve-wracking at the time while being downright mundane, if not completely insignificant in the bigger picture. In combination with the placement of his imagery in the most unassuming, suburban-like environment, the over-dramatization of such events earns these snapshots the vibe of a B-movie comedy, while keeping us on our toes with the all-too-real and relatable appearance of the portrayed scene. And whether there is a bully taking up the water fountain for too long, someone is pressuring us while we're getting ready, or a tray of red wine glasses is about to flip over, we can fully relate to being genuinely terrified with, in all realness, most trivial moments. —Sasha Bogojev
Installation photos by Cheonho Ah