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Bel Ami

Milano Chow at Bel Ami

Free

From KCRW’s Art Insider, Lindsay Preston Zappas:

At Bel Ami in Chinatown, Milano Chow’s drawings are detailed architectural compositions delicately rendered in graphite. The artist pulls references from a hodge-podge of architectural sources, and at first, her facades feel faithfully reproduced with precision. Though meticulously drawn, it’s only upon a closer inspection that impossible details begin to emerge: doors are as big as windows, stairs feel strangely small, windows begin where a new story of the building should.

Chow distorts these details to highlight the window frame, always repeated across her drawings, and wherein she occasionally places women who peer out from behind half-drawn curtains. While the rest of the work is hand-drawn, these women, culled from fashion magazine photoshoots, are rendered via photo transfer onto paper, allowing for another uncanny disruption of believability.

The idea of the voyeur is often discussed with a creepy undertone — an unwanted onlooker. Yet through Chow’s use of models, who have specifically posed in order to be seen, she confuses the role of the onlooker.

I’ve known of Chow’s work for years, but in pandemic times, as we are all more confined to our discrete interiors, the act of looking through her windows takes on a new resonance. Windows have become our means of connection during otherwise isolating times. My office desk, for instance, is placed at my front window, where a repeated cast of neighbors stroll by every morning. Some know to look for me, perched in my predictable seat, waving as they cruise past. In Chow’s drawings, this palpable desire for connection is felt, as her impossible architectures act as imposing barriers.