Bending the Straight Line

This summer, Lisa Sette Gallery celebrates the paradox with ‘Circle / Squared’ exhibit

Housed in a partly subterranean modernist Al Beadle-designed building, Lisa Sette Gallery’s physical space is a study in angles and lines. Lisa Sette’s expansive gallery is a cool white square angled around a central, altar-like alcove made up of right angles, into which desert sunlight pours from above.

This summer, the gallery celebrates the paradox with “Circle / Squared,” a group show featuring works that revel in concentricity, bending the straight line toward experimentation and aesthetic gyration. The show relates back to past portraiture and landscape as well as the circular form found throughout art history.

The show includes the ceramics of surreal objects by Li Mingzhu; photographic portraits by Bettina von Zwehl and Tami Bahat; photo constructions by Luis González Palma, Kahn/Selesnick, Liu Xiaofang; industrial landscapes by Yao Lu; and portraiture mementos in the form of glass cameos by Charlotte Potter.

Yao Lu, New Landscape Part I (View of Waterfall with Rocks and Pines), c-print, 31.5″ x 31.5″, Edition of 10

One of Circle / Squared’s more conceptually startling works come in the form of Lu’s landscape photographs, which in color, theme and composition somewhat resemble the Japanese 18th century Ukiyo-e (or “Floating World”) genre of paintings and prints. Lu’s landscapes, however, are photographs documenting vast topographies of industrial detritus. The photographs’ circular form is a subversion, as the viewer arrives expecting a quaint historical work. Lu’s images instead show in shocking beauty the toxic material of human industry, mountains of rubble and boundless fields of soot, billowing and undulating before our eyes.

Bettina von Zwehl, Billy, pigment print, 3.125″ x 3.125” image, 6.5″ x 6.5” framed, Edition of 7

The works of von Zwehl, Bahat and González Palma present timeless figures or images in round or oval compositions. González Palma’s theatrical portraiture shows a deep play between presence and absence while expressing complex emotions and melding them with public and private symbolism. Von Zwehl’s mysterious, close-up portraits of people and animals are circumscribed by a heavy black frame, while Bahat’s disturbing tableaus present figures in gothic or medieval garments as though they were still-lifes, caught posing for eternity within their gold-leaf frames.

Potter makes explicit the connections between glass and photography, as well as the applications of these media toward an essential form of memory: the portrait. These small identities are the obvious descendant of an ancient form of personal memento carved in glass or shell — the cameo.

A circular view may suggest eyeglasses, telescopes, microscopes or binoculars. Kahn/Selsnick‘s staged photographs portray a post apocalyptic world in which humans unchecked by societal expectations, pursue their own odd social and creative impulses.

Liu Xiaofang, I Remember II-01, pigment print, 33″ x 33.” PHOTO COURTESY LISA SETTE GALLERY, PHOENIX

The camera’s-eye view is used to much different effect in the photographs of Xiaofang. Composed nearly completely of blue sky, Xiaofang’s works present distant figures, often children, in stark settings and simple poses. Xiaofang’s portraying work captures nostalgia.

Circle / Squared

May 5 –  Aug. 25

Lisa Sette Gallery, 210 E. Catalina Drive, Phoenix

For more information, visit


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