Installation Art by Insook Hwang

By: Patricia Rosoff

Richmond Art Center • Loomis Chaffee School • Windsor, CT • • April 30–June 10, 2013

Insook Hwang, Blue Mountains, 2013
Insook Hwang, Blue Mountains, 2013, paper, tape, vinyl, acrylic, animation projected on wall, 26 x 15′.

Despite its wholly contemporary vocabulary of forms and symbols, at first take the work of Hwang shares many qualities with the rococo: transparency, whimsy and delight. Her installation pieces do not just hang, they float in the gallery space, both insubstantial and material. Her drawings, constructed one linear element at a time, resemble painted Tinker Toys or the models of DNA molecules. They teeter in their shimmery vertical planes like dewy spiderwebs.

The artist’s statement voices a certain parallel to the self-indulgent style that signaled the dissipated days of the ancien régime. For Hwang the role of the artist is to bring love and positive energy to her audience. It is this most innocent of intents that rings throughout the graffiti-like scrawling that she inscribes on various surfaces in a restless exploration of her materials. Hwang’s pictorial strategies are nothing if not up-to-date, in that she poses interactive multi-media environments, executed for the most part in non-traditional mediums. However, it is the underlying hodgepodge of global referents—linguistic, symbolic, generational, technological—that give her work its richness delivered in a whisper, not a shout.

Part Philip Guston (without the gusto and the juicy richness of his surfaces), part Keith Haring (without the street-wise assertiveness), and part Sol LeWitt (without the mechanics of separation between concept and execution), Hwang’s work is playful, delicate, and gossamer. It occupies the space in a tinkling visual sound, rather quirky and disjointed notes of a harpsichord, punctuating the physical space rather than transforming it.

There is a quality of calligraphy in this work, not to mention a sly kind of pop culture sensibility. The diminutive scale of Hello Kitty merchandise, piled up and infinitely multiplied; the plethora of cheerful emotions; the jelly-bean color scheme; and the use of gel inks and glitter point to her tech savvy generation. Amidst the visual chatter, wee Holograms the size of club cards are pasted into the mix. Each one performs endless backflips via their overlaid channels, a mix of languages (English, Asian) and doodled symbols. They make their point without allowing the viewer actually to read. The mix is as puzzling as it is intriguing. Perhaps that is the power of its intent.

—Patricia Rosoff

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