Projective Eye Gallery of CoA+A | UNC Charlotte
Crista Cammaroto, Director of Galleries and Curator
Albert Chong’s mixed media retrospective currently on exhibit at UNC Charlotte Center City’s Projective Eye Art Gallery in uptown came to be after the photographer stumbled upon some undeveloped film that was not his own work. He quickly realized that it belonged to a former student of his, Crista Cammaroto, from when she was enrolled in the M.F.A. program at University of Colorado at Boulder. Cammaroto has been the director of galleries at UNC Charlotte since 2011 so when she received the call from Chong about her found film, she immediately enlisted him to bring his work to her own community of students.
Amalgamation: The mixed media works of Albert Chong challenges the ideas of heritage, post-colonialism and religion. Although these themes are relevant to southeastern United States culture and history, Chong has rarely exhibited or spent time in our region. Chong was born in Jamaica in 1958. He was the last of his family to move to the United States but finally made it to New York City in 1977. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1981 and later enrolled in the University of California San Diego’s M.F.A. program where he graduated in 1991. He has been teaching at the University of Colorado at Boulder since then, but when he isn’t working he enjoys spending time off the grid on his property in Jamaica.
Crista Cammaroto curated the unique exhibit for the artist’s retrospective that is on exhibit at the Projective Eye Gallery until December 4. It spans over three decades of Chong’s career and features images from a variety of series, including photomosaics, self-portraits and copper matted pieces. While Chong’s photographs have always employed mixed media, this show is the first instance when his installation Throne to the 3rd Millennium coexists in a gallery space with his photography. He does include his own sculptures in the composition of the still lifes he creates for his photographs, so Cammaroto really created a cohesive exhibit for the Projective Eye Gallery by bringing them all together in one room.
When I asked when he began to incorporate sculpture in his work he said “photography almost came too easy” to him, soon after he had picked it up as a hobby. He then began challenging himself to pursue three-dimensionality in his work. He started with adding distinctive textures to the objects he photographed. The images from his Throne series featured in Amalgamation include chairs wrapped with codfish scales, joshua tree spines and other prickly thorns. Chong still identifies himself as a photographer, but crafting his still lifes seemed to come naturally to him as well.
Pieces from his Thrones series of photographs in the exhibit include images of skulls, thorns and other uninviting materials adorning various chairs. Luckily Throne for the 3rd Millennium, the central installation of the exhibit, was more inviting. A small sign permitted visitors to sit on the winged chair that was elevated on a wire-framed star filled with duck feathers. Chong enjoyed seeing the response to visitor’s interactions with the piece. While speaking with him, a couple wandered into the gallery and he eagerly asked them, “have you sat in it yet?” just as he had asked me earlier before I experienced the piece a few minutes earlier. While I won’t ruin the surprise element of this throne, it is clear that Chong wants people to interact with his art just as he does when he constructs a new work.