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Tavares Strachan's Notions of Absence and Presence, Visibility and Invisibility at Rossi & Rossi
Installation view of tavres Strachan's work at Rossi & Rossi.

LONDON.- Rossi & Rossi present Sometimes Lies are Prettier, the first solo exhibition in the UK by Tavares Strachan.

Sometimes Lies are Prettier centres upon a historical happening in 1995 - the disappearance of the XIth Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. In Tibetan Buddhist culture, the Panchen Lama is revered as the second most important religious figure after the Dalai Lama. He is considered to be an emanation of the Amitabha Buddha and possesses the spiritual powers and authority to identify the next Dalai Lama. On the 14th of May, 1995, a formal announcement was made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, recognising a six-year-old boy Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, from the Lhari district in Nagchu, Tibet, as the reincarnation of the Xth Panchen Lama. Three days later, the boy and his family were abducted by the Chinese authorities and have not been seen since. The Chinese government subsequently elected another child Gyaltsen Norbu as the XIth Panchen Lama. To this day, the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family remain a mystery.

Sometimes Lies are Prettier, which features works in a wide range of media, demonstrates Strachan’s adeptness at challenging and pushing the boundaries that normally separate science, art and history. Age-progression imagery created in collaboration with forensic scientists is displayed alongside a floating sculpture in a glass tank, reflecting Strachan’s on-going preoccupation with notions of absence and presence, visibility and invisibility. The absence of the boy is at the same time a constant presence, a reminder of the power struggle between contemporary politics and ancient traditions and religious beliefs; the vanishing of the boy underlining the actions taken by a ruling class to erase the other. For Strachan, the artist assumes multiple responsibilities, including the role of the sociological mediator.

In a sculpture entitled “I belong here,” a ceremonial yellow hat, worn by the lamas in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, appears to be floating inside a glass tank,
suspended in mid-air. Immersed inside the mineral oil filled container is a glass model of the Panchen Lama’s internal organs, sitting underneath the hat. Since the glass and the oil have the same refractive index, the body of the child disappears in front of the viewer, leaving only the yellow hat, a concrete manifestation of his existence. In Strachan’s work, this constant oscillation between the visible and the invisible demands the viewer to question their being-in-the world. It also invites us to re-examine the ways in which we perceive and engage with the material manifestations of everyday life, bringing to the forefront questions concerning reality and illusion, truth and fiction, “somethingness” and “nothingness,” thus recalling the Buddhist phrase, “Colour is emptiness, emptiness is colour. Colour is not emptiness, emptiness is not colour.” In Strachan’s work, boundaries between science and art, physicality and immateriality collapse; what is assumed to be residing at opposite poles are called into our scrutiny through the artist’s subtle play of the tensions between these dichotomies.

Tavares Strachan was born in 1979, in Nassau, the Bahamas. He currently lives and works in New York. He is a graduate of Yale University, where he holds a Masters in Fine Art. In 2010, Strachan was invited as artist-in-residence at MIT. His recent solo exhibitions include Orthostatic Tolerance: It Might Not Be a Bad Idea If I Never Went Home Again, MIT List Visual Arts Center (2010); The Orthostatic Tolerance: Launching into an Infinite Distance, Grand Arts, Kansas City (2010); You Can Do Whatever You Like (Orthostatic Intolerance Project), Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania (2009); A Hundred Years, Daniel Weinberg Gallery, Los Angeles (2008); Tavares Strachan, Pierogi 2000, Leipzig Germany (2008). His works are held in collections including the Central Bank Nassau, Bahamas; Inter American Washington Bank, Washington, DC; Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo, and Nassau International Airport.

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