Commonwealth and Council

The Floor and the Cane

David Bell and Iris Yirei Hu


David Bell and Iris Yirei Hu offer zero-point perspectives on their inherited histories while enlisting their grandmothers as points of origin and sites of contest. In these non-linear scenes, the two women enter the world only a few years apart, born in 1917 and 1921, from seemingly disparate histories and places, yet participate in significant events that influence global history. The artists collapse generations of remembering and re-remembering, offering mural-sized paintings with panoptic views—Bell’s All my Friends are Dead and Hu’s The Descendants—as effigies to their “homes” and their disorienting perspectives. For both artists, their grandmothers’ physical houses are the only enduring landmarks of their lives; the homes in which their mothers were raised, and the homes to which they continuously return. The paintings operate as “homes” in their own right, neighboring spaces whose identities are now intertwined and connected.