Sue Yon Hwang: Material Manifestation
On ViewDoosan Gallery
September – October 19, 2019
While strolling through the various works of Sue Yon Hwang’s relatively modest exhibition, I was taken by an awkward mystery in the installation, an intersection between science and art that was somewhat difficult to place in time and space. In some ways, this may account for a certain distance in the work, like an eccentric geometry where the content appears more virtual than it does tactile. The forms on display are largely related to the artist’s indulgent use of soft lead pencil on paper and to her French curves, which eventually disappear through a carefully conceived process of drawing, scanning, gluing, and printing. The artist occasionally uses Photoshop printing to darken the surface of the various sheets of paper in order to give the surface a more synthetic appearance.
Apparently the body of work included in this exhibition—seven works altogether—was accomplished during a six-month residency sponsored by the gallery. There is considerably little information about her other than a recent brochure related to Hwang’s earlier work (not written by the artist), which limits our ability to decipher the origin or intention behind the forms. We are pretty much left with the title, whereby Hwang’s focus on her “material” depends largely on its “manifestations.” Given that the title was conceived in the Korean language and later translated into English, the accuracy of the title may have been altered, which is not uncommon between these two languages.
Each of the seven works included in this exhibition has its own unique space, yet from a stylistic point of view, the works may appear to hold a similarity to one another. While the artist’s ideas may have germinated elsewhere, the actual, physical work was done in her New York studio. One of Hwang’s works, Letter Drawing (2019), references an earlier work, titled A4 Drawing (2007). In each case, a rectangle the size of a piece of stationary is entirely covered with a graphite pencil, layer upon layer, until the shiny surface of the graphite begins to appear. In A4 Drawing, the stationary is from Seoul; in Letter Drawing, it is from New York. Needless to say, the size of the rectangle differs slightly in each drawing, this subtle variation constituting what appears to be the most profoundly personal work in the show.
In other words, there is a curiously distant feeling in the remaining works, with the possible exception of People of Color (2019), in which the artist used pastel colors in contrast to graphite. This work deviates uniquely from other works in the exhibition given that it was the first one she made based on her metaphoric grasp of the New York urban environment. In later, more developed works, such as Big Night (2019) and Little Night (2019), both are constructed in an identical way using printed paper, glue and 8B soft graphite pencil. In both cases, there is a sharp stone-like shape that emerges vertically at one end of a planar base. Each work is totally enveloped in black, as are two related works, Untitled (2019) and O,O (2019). Each of these four sculptures is made working with a similar process by gluing papers together and covering them with numerous layers of soft graphite. This may also account for the distinction of appearing to be made in a more durable material than paper, such as stone or steel, even close-up.
Another sculpture, White Bird (2019), is constructed with layers of white paper fastidiously glued together, jutting out high-up on a wall facing the entrance. It resonates with an implied kinesis, despite its static placement, fitting the space to perfection. Again, the appearance of a contrary material—in this case, marble—is as convincing as is its fanciful, classical demeanor. It has no relation to Brâncuși, but exists as an ambiguous form, more distant. By all accounts, this is most likely the mecca of the show.