The School of Nature and Principle

April 10 - May 30, 2015


Rodrigo Hernandez, Is That So?, 2013

Rodrigo Hernandez, Is That So?, 2013

Opening Reception: Friday, April 10, 6 - 8 pm
A newly commissioned work by Regina Jose Galindo in collaboration with Paulo Alvarado will be performed by the Grace Chorale of Brooklyn, 6:30 - 7:30 pm at EFA Project Space, 323 W. 39th St, 2nd Floor.

Artists: Javier Barrios, Tyler Coburn, Regina Jose Galindo, Rodrigo Hernández, Federico Herrero, Akira Ikezoe, Chosil Kil, Catalina León, Gabriel Lester, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, and Yu-Hsien Su

Curated by: Emiliano Valdés


The School of Nature and Principle is an ensemble of works speculating on the relationship between metaphysics and various aspects of contemporary society. The exhibition also addresses, partly through the way it was conceived, the gradual evolution (or deterioration) of highly organized thought systems from their initial implementation to their eventual adaptation to society and actual human behavior. Taking Neo-Confucianism as his departure point (specifically the branch known as the School of Nature and Principle, which proposes a way of relating to and behaving in the world), curator Emiliano Valdés has assembled an international group of artists whose work explores the validity of non-rational knowledge, our relation to the natural world and technology, and simply what it means to be alive today.

Though inspired by medieval Chinese philosophy and religion, The School of Nature and Principle comments on contemporary society’s move further from the rationalism of the Enlightenment era toward greater acceptance of the irrational and spiritual, a move enhanced by growing understanding of quantum physics and the nature of space-time. The works included in this show address the tension generated by a drive for logic and control versus a yearning for intuition and the unknown.

In putting together this show, Valdés draws on his research and experience of working in Asia as Associate Curator of the 2014 Gwangju Biennial, as well as his background as a renowned Latin American curator who has been interested in art as a space for knowledge, both rational and irrational. Many of the artists in this exhibition are showing in New York for the first time, such as Mexican artist Rodrigo Hernández and Argentinean artist Catalina León, both of whom use artistic practice as a way of meditating or thinking about the self. Some comment directly on contemporary Asian society and culture, such as Taiwanese artist Yu-Hsien Su, and, from a more metaphysical perspective, the work of Korean-born, London-based artist Chosil Kil, who addresses the inhabitation of the exhibition space by matter through sculptures that suggest human figures. That exhibition space is treated as a “dimension,” a sort of parallel universe where the laws of rationality and logic are not necessarily observed—or so it is conceived by Costa Rican painter Federico Herrero who, through his site-specific intervention, will offer his imagining of portals and what lies on the other side. Javier Barrios and Tyler Coburn, both of New York, study the impact that technology has on our relationship to the world while Japanese-born, New York–based artist Akira Ikezoe reflects on a wider approach to the universe and natural environment. Dutch artist and filmmaker Gabriel Lester proposes a dichotomy of behavior through videos that dictate what is right and what is wrong. Finally, a new commission by Guatemalan performance artist Regina Jose Galindo is an affirmation of existence from a deeply political standpoint.

Extrapolating from a carefully considered selection of works bridging various media, including performance and a site-specific installation that is at once an artwork and the “dimension” in which the exhibition takes place, The School of Nature and Principle suggests an analogy between the transformation of Confucianism in the middle ages, from a pragmatic to a more metaphysical religion, and the dilemmas of our present time.



EFA Project Space is grateful to the Asia Art Archive in America and the Hunter College Department of Art and Art History for their help in facilitating this exhibition. 

Related events:

Friday, April 10, 2015, 6:30 - 7:30pm
Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 6:30 to 8:30pm "Forced Perspectives" Book Launch, a Monograph by Gabriel Lester