“Paper Routes – Women to Watch 2020,” Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Fuko Ito, “billowing hearts,” 2018, from the series “heart of plush,” watercolor and colored pencil on paper, 126 x 156 inches, triptych

What the artist describes as “a community of naked, plush creatures called fumblys” populate Fuko Ito’s pastel-colored, psychedelic work, and I, for one, would like to go on record as saying I’m up for this adventure anytime. Ito’s two monumental watercolor and colored pencil on paper drawings illustrate her community of what appear to be industrious, yet relaxed creatures. In the triptych “billowing hearts” from the “heart of plush” series, the fumblys seem to labor and relax together in a soft-focus atmosphere that is neither of this or any other actual world currently known to us. The figures seem impossibly seductive and yet intentionally playful as they band together in various unknowable tasks.

“Love mobility,” also from the “heart of plush” series shows fumblys moving up the side of a candy-colored Tower of Babel highlighted against a night sky. While certainly not sharing the hard edges of a lot of anime, Ito’s works telegraph the trippy imagination found in some anime and in the genius cartoon series “Adventure Time,” where similarly enchanting, shape-shifting characters bend time, space, and themselves.

UMKC professor Hyeyoung Shin centers her work in a desire to emote through the body itself; sometimes her own body. The sculptural installation “Tide,” composed of Gampi-paper cast feet, suggests the absent body, as sets of feet cascade down the gallery wall onto the floor in a solemn procession.

Various sizes suggest adults and children, making the work that much more poignant, especially in light of the untenable situation at the U.S. southern border. The paper looks fragile and vulnerable, and we might be reminded of works by Christian Boltanski, Doris Salcedo and others that refer to humans lost to us through violence. Foot imagery also has significance across time and cultures from the Bible to Buddhism and those narratives may also resonate in Shin’s work.

Desiree Morales’s three inkjet photographs “untitled,” from her series “thinking/in black” have a slick, computerized feel, and stand out from the rest of the works where the artist’s hand is so present. Instead, Morales builds sets to photograph, creating a distance between process and final work. She notes, “I’m very invested in image translation. The way things ‘read’ through photographs. More specifically, the conversation of documentation imagery and ‘fine art works’. . . where the two overlap.” The complex and visually disconcerting spatial relationships of color and shape in each print create an energized abstract environment.

Abstracted imagery in Emily Wilker’s gouache landscape paintings on paper suggest her affinity for painting en plein air and for collapsing spatial relationships. The unpeopled “Blue River Hiking Trail” and “Fort” allude to nature’s rhythmic chaos. The densely wooded areas’ trees dominate the compositions, making the scene in “Fort” feel both intriguing and yet slightly impenetrable, or at least foreboding despite the vivid color. Her sculptural paper flora in “April Showers” shares a similar chaotic view of the natural world.

The exhibition is organized in cooperation with the Kansas City chapter of National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), and the artists, chosen from works submitted to the museum, currently live in Kansas or Missouri, within 150 miles of Kansas City.

“Paper Routes–Women to Watch 2020” continues at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd., through September 15. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. For more information, 816.753.5784 or www.kemperart.org

Dana Self

Dana Self is an arts writer who was a contemporary art curator for more than 13 years at museums in Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Missouri, including Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. She has organized roughly 100 exhibitions of emerging and midcareer artists. She is also marketing director for UMKC Conservatory.

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