The exhibition presents recent works by artist Kevin Kao through a series of gilded ceramic sculptures that combine the human form with the shape of air. Originating as an exploration of pneuma, an Ancient Greek concept for air and life, the sculptures manifest breath as a physical form bound to the human experience. Primarily constructed from clay, Kao transforms the pliable into permanent, positioning the role of craft and tradition as important influences. Air, unseen, is abstracted as biomorphic, suspension, and concrete. Through glazing and gilding, surfaces are treated akin to objects of reverence, such as reliquaries and Buddhist figurines, establishing a connection to the broad, universal appeal of gold.
Understood as “air in motion,” pneuma shares similar interpretations across the ancient world as life force, spirit, soul, and vitality. With the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition assumes new perspectives, amplifying the biological significance of breath as an integral essence to sustain life. What is air, but as evidence of language and lived experiences? Ideas of stillness and distance are imagined as defined spaces of memory, celebration, and remembrance.