Genevieve Chua takes a natural approach in conjuring variations

Genevieve Chua's first North American solo exhibition at Gusford evokes a retro tone

Singaporean artist Genevieve Chua’s first North American solo exhibition is inspired by the cicada, a large flying insect known for its lengthy underground gestation and distinctive clicking sound.

Lining the walls of Gusford’s small storefront space are 13 abstract canvases in simple geometric shapes, painted in dark or jewel tones and silk-screened with mysterious organic textures. Their curves and angles mimic the shape of the insect itself but also allude to musical instruments. 

Pairs of semi-circular canvases are described as “castanets”; a similar configuration of rectangles is a “metronome.” While these comparisons are cute, the works on their own are fairly dull, and some of them feel distinctly unresolved. However, they are enlivened by their relationships to one another and to a soundtrack that plays continually in the space.

Alternating between the insect’s sounds, a human voice repeating the word “cicada,” and a jazzy tune set to clicking vocal and instrumental percussion, the soundtrack brings the installation to life, lending the paintings a certain musicality they wouldn’t otherwise possess. It’s not hard to imagine them animated, dancing across the walls.

With its geometric shapes set to jazz, the show has something of a retro tone, evoking the cool, streamlined impulses of mid-20th century modern art and music.

Like many artists, Chua has taken a natural motif as a jumping-off point for generating variations, whether musical or painted. She has also located something unexpectedly civilized in the pulse of the cicada’s song.

Gusford, 7016 Melrose Ave., (323) 452-9563, through Aug. 23. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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