In the Studio: Flashing Lights and Fluorescent Skulls
Influenced by Pop Art and humor, Alton DuLaney and Gao Hang ensnare viewers with large-scale, dynamic work.

Big, bright and bold: the studios of University of Houston artists Alton DuLaney and Gao Hang are hard to miss.

A marquee sign lined with flashing bulbs shouts the word “art,” grabbing the attention of anyone passing by DuLaney’s immaculate window display in his third floor studio. The display reflects DuLaney’s keen eye for aesthetic presentation, demonstrated by his distinction as the world’s most famous giftwrap artist and experience as a professional window dresser. 

Hang’s studio is covered in neon paintings — bright orange and green images that buzz vibrantly, drawing a viewer’s eye from one corner to the next. One wall is covered with fluorescent skulls, another with a series of hyper-stylized bears. Classically trained in photorealistic painting in China, Hang’s paintings are a clear departure from his previous work, but the energy of this new direction radiates through the studio. 

How have you grown as an artist during your graduate studies?
Even though I was a career artist before coming to UH, I moved here without any of my previous paintings and basically had to start over. But I think it’s a good thing because nobody knew me here, and I started fresh and really challenged myself. The first two semesters I just painted whatever I wanted — huge dinosaurs, installations, anything just trying to find my new direction. It was the perfect chance to experiment. 

What themes or ideas are you exploring with your new body of work?
I’m mimicking how my generation deals with found images. We search for things online, find a picture and repurpose it. But we also like to mess with it, to change the colors, write comments, zoom in on it. That’s what I’m doing with my paintings. I’m messing with the original image, zooming in, zooming out and adding text.
We also like to post photos of ourselves on social media all the time. We want to broadcast ourselves in order to survive, to prove we exist. So, to me, all of us are fluorescent. That’s why I use fluorescent paint. I’m trying to reference what’s happening online, but slowing it down to savor the process. 

Where do you look for inspiration?
Books. I don’t really use online sources to learn stuff. I go to the library and look up books on artists I like. Some of the artists I admire are Andy Warhol, Benjamin Butler, Peter Doig and David Hockney — he’s my hero.

The M.F.A. Thesis Exhibition opens at Blaffer Art Museum Friday, April 6 at 6 p.m. and will be on view through Saturday, April 21.

---- Natalie Thayer, Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts

Gao Hang (高航)

Gao's work demonstrates humor, surprise, strangeness and optimism in engaging sometimes mundane or absurd American subject matter through the lens of cultural outsider.

Gao’s work is a reconstitution of a new visual form from invented color and pattern influenced by eastern philosophy, and in particular the doctrine of Zhongyoung, apractice of balance and harmony. He uses this as both a conceptual and structural armature, as a result, his works offer a sense of rational and stable readability. Gao’s work intentionally engages the aesthetics of the internet and our glowing digital devices in effort to compete for attention amongst the quick and faded viewing mechanics of the 21st century.   

---- Second Bedroom Gallery, Los Angeles

Two Sharks ---- Gao Hang's solo show, LA 2017

are better than one shark. Once there was the bull shark, the tiger
shark, the great white.
— But now there are only two sharks

There is the shark that kills. Ripping through flesh like a soggy sandwich.
Nosing out blood until it spills. Drawn to the boogie boarder and that
one swimmer who doesn’t quite blend in to the ebb and flow of the

There is the shark that we kill. Twenty to a line, relieved of its fin with the smooth flick of a salty forearm and tossed back into the foam to thrash and bleed out and die as chum to attract others to the same sharp fate. Extorted on the global market by the Shark Fin Mafia, their fins drying out on some undisclosed metal roof in rising Asia.

In the Baltimore aquarium there is a hollowed out cylindrical tank. An endless treadmill for sharks circling an infinite horizon while visitors gawk at their one eye. There are more than two sharks in Baltimore.

In 2011 I spent a whole week getting high and watching shark week with
Megna. I like to think of that as the beginning of our friendship. We ran
around an empty town tagging S.F.M. in stairwells. We fancied ourselves two sharks in a sea of dolphins and porpoises. It was easier in a small pond. We don’t talk very much these days.

The first time I saw a shark was through my mask off the coast of Butterfly Beach. It was just a small leopard shark but it was enough to make me gurgle a cry out of my tube and swim back to shore. When I took my mask off the land was sharp and bright.

---- Finn Ripley

Unspeakably human or unimaginably bestial?
JooYoung Choi • Gao Hang • Karen Lederer
Exhibition in conjunction with PrintHouston, Houston 2017

Anya Tish Gallery is thrilled to announce a three-person exhibition titled Unspeakably human or unimaginably bestial? (a phrase from the poem “What do animals dream?” by Yahia Lababidi). The exhibition features sculpture by JooYoung Choi, paintings by Gao Hang, and monoprints by Karen Lederer, each depicting creatures that come alive within the context of popular culture and the aesthetics of our increasingly digital world.

Affected from a young age by American television shows like Pee-wee’s Playhouse and Sesame Street, Choi presents a mammoth soft sculpture in bright, Crayola-box colors. The giant monster, Lady Madness, is repeated in various positions, demonstrating a slow-motion action within the Cosmic Womb, an expansive fictional land Choi invented that informs her body of work. Concurrently, the Artist’s work will be exhibited at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, May 20-September 3, 2017.

Gao’s quietly electric paintings of sharks, bears, and other predatory animals, rendered in thin flats of the fluorescent hues he considers to be the tones of his generation, conjure intimate portraits with a stable gaze that are distinctly more human than feral. Influenced by Eastern Philosophy, his work possesses a harmonious and balanced readability.

Executed through a confluence of monoprinting and painting techniques, Lederer’s works on paper are teeming with fish and reptiles, bold pattern, present day consumer products, and 20th century art historical references. Her closecropped compositions are a nod to the influence of Instagram on our current visual climate, creating a spatial disorientation.

---- Anya Tish Gallery, Houston 

Unspeakably human or unimaginably bestial?
Free Press Houston, 2017

...Hang’s paintings and drawings, which I have seen at The Second Bedroom’s shows around town, may be executed with a light-handed touch, but they are anything but shallow. And, as with a Milton Avery essence, his pieces are rejuvenating and clean. Much of the works are derived from a narrative formed from his everyday experiences of being a Chinese artist living and working in our strange city of Houston, focusing on subjects like truck culture, guns, sprawling urban landscapes and ROUS’ (Rodents of Unusual Size). His paintings are bright, bold, and appear as drawings or watercolor works at times, only giving the viewer the information they actually need to complete the image. The pieces vary in size and come off as illuminated details or massive windows to some surreal event.
Hang’s work at Anya Tish are in line with the theme of the exhibition, and depict several predatory animals from his own place within. A Wolf, Snake, Bear, and Shark walk into a bar…the wall of his work is at first humorously taken in, and the predatory animals seem almost adorable. The wolf is hunched over as if being reprimanded and presented in a shocking orange. Flanking the small painting of the bear is the shark’s head in a series of cool blues (a partner shark painting was added this past friday). Large and emotionless — just as I would imagine a shark’s face would appear while swimming close to the portal from which you are viewing it — it is here that the elements began to click for me. Although they initially appear to be the key players in a bar joke, the potential of these animals to become murderous beings quickly becomes clear. It goes without saying that there is a lot of deadly shit out there that might seem innocuous at first glance, just like a meme of a cute puppy in a police uniform. The paintings, which with his technique and brush work appear as thinly painted, low-resolution depictions of themselves, almost appear to be the last innocuous thing you see before you are torn to pieces. It’s as if your mind has grown calm and painted this picture of this colorful, peaceful creature the second before your mind goes dark. The slightly tainted and dark nature of Hang’s work is always present and covert. The paintings may be painted light handedly, but the strong and dark moment is dwelling just below the surface of the painting.

----  Paul Middendorf