Hsu is a Yale grad with a degree in architecture. He says he found himself psychologically straitjacketed by the confines of the field; his interest in "the gender of architecture" just wasn't enough. So it was on to the Art Institute, where he's nearing completion of a B.F.A. His show at Warehouse 1325 displays something so personal as to be organic: the inner shell of his own apartment.
Hsu created "Apartment 1E" over the past nine months, using twin-, queen-, and king-size sheets purchased from thrift stores to construct a fabric cast of his living and dining rooms. Inspired by such female artists as British sensation Rachel Whiteread, who cast resin forms of such "negative spaces" as the undersides of chairs, Hsu says he devised the installation as an homage to domestic labor, handicrafts, "and tramp art -- the tradition of making used, ordinary materials into whimsical or fantastic objects."
Using sheets "discolored and stained with sweat and other things," Hsu covered everything in the two rooms and sewed the sheets taut, and he will exhibit the ghostly quilt. "Now that I've taken it down -- sort of a slipcover that engulfed the whole apartment -- I realize how loud my apartment is. The sheets tended to muffle everything," he says. "When I show it off-site, everything is reversed. By the absence of furniture, it hangs inside out and upside down." Of Whiteread's influence, Hsu says, "This is more playful. Her work is rather masculine and somber."
Also more somber is the work of Willinek, who arrived at the Art Institute from her native Germany. She says her video installation, titled "8 Per Day" or "From the Outside They All Just Look Alike," investigates "social conditions in Kansas City." When asked to specify which social conditions she's alluding to, she hesitates in an almost protective manner.
"I don't want to say too much to give it away," she says, "because the piece is very difficult and works on different levels. Plus the impact of an installation piece is when you walk into the installation. As far as the process, I'm working on perception -- how we perceive others and how others perceive us. I guess it's okay to say the piece is about child abuse, how we close our eyes to it because it happens inside the house."
When Willinek explains the piece in more detail, it becomes obvious why she wants to hold something back. It's safe to say that she works ritualistically with a certain material, part of which she saves (the part Warehouse visitors will see) and part of which she recycles into something new and then sells. The proceeds go the child-abuse services agency The Children's Place.