Ambrin Ling: Works On Paper


Viewing our exhibits is free because of the generosity of Horicon Bank. This exhibition was supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

October 22, 2020 – January 23, 2021 all-day

Exhibition will be on display from October 22, 2020 – January 23, 2021

Works on paper by Ambrin Ling

A mask or face covering is required in the building. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

“Works on paper” describes both the materiality of my interdisciplinary practice— drawing, printmaking, painting, sculpture, and installation— as well as some of the driving concepts behind my making, including labor as a repetitive process, the presence of the hand, and renewed attention to the low-grade and quotidian. As a queer, brown, female-identifying practitioner, I am interested in how object and image-making not only reinforces perception, but can also recalibrate it. While I utilize classical representational techniques, my attention is not on the monumental or spectacular but instead on that which is marginalized, peripheral, or of low-value. This often means people of color, women, and the domestic space.

The Drawing Center’s (NY) fall 2018 show For Opacity describes its artists as using “drawing to investigate subjecthood as well as its resistance to depiction […] these artists believe that the right to refuse explanation is as integral to the formulation of selfhood as is revelation.” My work revisits dirty laundry, houses under construction, and abandoned public spaces to trace the presences of those of Simon de Beauvoir’s immanent labor or who are often unseen or erased. However, in conjunction with For Opacity, my landscapes and architectures signify the human while obscuring the identity of any one subject or figure. In my works on paper, openness against over-determination manifests in code-switching between the languages of representation and abstraction, as well as with the focus on the everyday things that in their lived experiences accrue what geologists call “deep time”— multiple valences of use, reuse, repurposing, and revaluing. My paintings and installations operate as sites of contestation, where the human is absent but laundry implies domestic toil, architecture suggests low-paid manual labor or exile, and a bed in disarray can suggest either familial caretaking or sexual favors.

Moreover, my research-driven work responds to the current nationalistic fervor in the Trump government, one that can be traced back to 1800’s pictorial strategies as America sought to establish an identity now severed from England’s history as well as to promote unity as slavery divided the nation. By re-contextualizing seemingly innocuously landscape motifs of 19th century artists including Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt, my paintings break up the deep space that signified endless colonial conquest and instead offer fragmented worldviews that exist on the margins and draw attention to process and surface— in other words, the artifice of construction rather than a propagandistic, convincing representation of a “true” reality.

The forms of my work return attention to that which is often devalued and marginalized as representation apparatuses, including watercolor paints, grass stains culled from lawn clippings, and cast paper from recycled papers. I intend to disrupt a hierarchy of art materials, and in doing so more broadly disrupt the hierarchies that designate who belongs and who does not in terms of race, gender, and space.