The Sentinels centers around Frank and Lau’s unique perspectives and placement in the shifting landscapes, literally and metaphorically, of time and history.
Sentinels, or guardians, present themselves in several iterations throughout the exhibition: first, with Lau’s gargantuan ceramic serpent, "The Primordial Molder", at the front of the gallery. Initially installed at the Terrace of the Bronx Museum for the Arts, this hand-built ceramic presence is at once an unyielding serpent entity and a craggy, flowing landscape. The appearance of disembodied pairs of ghostly hands in both Lau’s ceramic wall installation and video in the rear gallery suggest a disjointed past that’s been ruptured and augmented. Her ceramic chains incorporate a peacock feather pattern. Referencing the ancient Greek belief that the flesh of a peacock never decays after death and their feather ‘eyes’ are always watchful, this piece creates a link between the physical and the spectral. Throughout the gallery Lau’s ceramic series, "Mountain of Knives”, creates a topographic installation referencing one of the 18 levels in Taoist hell.
The adjacent wall is adorned with Frank’s heavily hand-beaded “Pattern for a Yurt” panels. Yurts, traditionally felted nomadic dwellings originating in central Eurasia, are another stand-in for the sentinel as a protector from the elements. Only a pattern, not yet a structure, Frank’s beaded pieces suggest an abstracted possibility for transformative shelters needed during times of upheaval – looking to a future that links the past. Her ceramic rhyton vessels are based on ancient Eurasian clay vessels that mimicked animal shapes and held liquids for use in ritualistic ceremonies to influence the gods: installed in a herd, they retain their sculptural quality, and appear again in the artist’s video, rhythmically being filled and drained against the ebb and flow of tides responding to rising sea levels. Filmed alongside an extinct woolly mammoth speaking in fragmented monologue, the video uses an expansive vision of time to examine the historical ways man divined the future and sought influence over natural processes.
Together, Frank and Lau suggest the stark reality of an uncertain future informed by the materiality of the past. While examining abject evidence of human kind’s trajectory, the two artists also offer a respite in The Sentinels: disaster and chaos, in the form of rapid expansion and collapse, are countered by guardians who watch over our real and mythological worlds as soothsayers: reforming the future by interpreting the past.