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Indepth Arts News:

"Evolution in form: Sculptures by Darlene Nguyen-Ely"
2001-02-08 until 2001-04-10
Charleston Heights Arts Center
Las Vegas, NV, USA United States of America

You won't find Seattle-based artist Darlene Nguyen-Ely commenting on any pressing social issues of modern life, or pontificating on the human condition in general. Her work is quiet and introverted. Less preoccupied with the affairs of the outside world, the sculptures in Darlene's exhibition, Evolution in Form, is all about drawing the viewer's eye in for a closer look.

On display at Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush Street , Las Vegas, Nevada from February 8 thru April 10, 2001, the pieces's sensual and curvy surfaces sometimes feel cold and remote despite their aesthetically pleasing arrangement of forms. But the work doesn't just rest on a formal idea of icy, detached beauty. Each piece occupies its specific space as if it were marking the territory of an absent human presence. Using everything from wood to composite resin and acrylic paints, Nguyen-Ely builds up her shapes with a smooth, sleek surfaces, geometrically precise details, and machine and biologically-inspired forms that symbolized journeys.

Within her emphasis on formalism, Nguyen-Ely deals with a self-imposed, limited range of shapes as a method to get to the essence of her chosen abstractions. She makes a decent argument that a contemporary artist can still transform form into content. Here, part of the work's sensory pleasure is also largely derived from the numerous ways her sculptures interpret a finite series of curves, and how they relate to one another when seen as a group.

Nguyen-Ely's art, however, isn't terribly challenging on a conceptual level. Observing the way light reflects and bounces off the lovely and delicately refined surfaces and movements of her sculptures is pretty much all that you get in the end. It entertains the eye without really moving the heart.

But what keeps the work from being a purely formal exercise is the unspoken question the artist seems to be asking herself with each piece: How can one work and re-work an essentially simple shape and make it seem simultaneously familiar and newNULL And it is a teasing question that Nguyen-Ely artistry has yet to exhaust with this particular body of work.

by Neil Kendricks
(Neil Kendricks is an artist, writer, photographer and filmmaker based in San Diego)

Journey # 82: Untitled, 2000,
21 h x 24 w x 14 d,
wall mounted,

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