30 Under 35 2019

Brook Hsu Encourages Her Viewer to Linger

Elizabeth Karp-Evans

Photography by Aubrey Mayer

Brook Hsu photographed by Aubrey Mayer
Brook Hsu photographed in her Bronx studio.

“I appreciate the word artist more than I do painter.” In tandem with expanding her artistic identity, Brook Hsu looks to dilate viewers’ perspectives by employing mythic and spiritual symbolism wavering between abstraction and figuration. Her work is a profusion of oil painting, texts, sculpture and carpet pieces that present contemporary narratives of love, pain, humor and connectedness. “I hope that my use of symbolism provides a freedom for the viewer to be able to think and feel deeply, to ask the big questions… to keep asking the obvious, why is the sky blue?, to have space to grieve, to laugh and feel joy.”

Installation view of Fruiting Body, 2018.

Hsu’s ability to connect disparate themes in order to summon deeper thought may come from traversing vastly different cultural and topographical landscapes. She grew up in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and attended the Kansas City Art Institute and Yale University. There was a stint in Los Angeles before returning to New York. “Panic Angel,” her 2017 exhibition at Brooklyn’s Deli Gallery was a meditation on her mother’s battle with breast cancer and a breakthrough show. The partner text, “Take Away,” introduced the pain of cancer through the allegory of the Greek god Pan and referenced everything from Rimbaud to Roy Orbison.

Hsu’s solo show last summer at Detroit’s Bahamas Biennale gallery strung together disparate themes requiring viewers to interpret complex emotions and her first institutional show, a four-person presentation at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, is on view through January 27, 2019. “It’s difficult to feel our humanity right now, but we really need to feel it now more than ever,” Hsu says. “Art’s greatest power is in its ability to inspire change in us.”