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Untitled: Plane, Layer

2023. 6. 16 – 7. 22
Dhehee Lee, Inah Choe, Kalani Largusa, Nick Schleicher, Jake Boggs

Juyeon Kang, Gallery JJ Director

Gallery JJ is pleased to present Untitled: Plane, Layer, featuring five artists practicing in different cultural contexts in the United States and Korea. The exhibition highlights the enduring appeal of plasticity in abstraction, a crucial component of modern art that continues to captivate us today, and presents recent works by painters Dhehee Lee, Inah Choe, Kalani Largusa, and Nick Schleicher, as well as ceramic artist Jake Boggs. They explore the possibilities of new abstraction by delving into the inherent qualities of the plane and its materiality.

The concept of flatness, once emphasized as an objective in modernist painting, has evolved into a decisive and abstract element in contemporary art, and many artists continue to reinterpret it in their own ways. Despite concerns about the relationship between outdated aesthetics and commercial viability, the prevalence of simulacra and superficial images we experience in globalized society today contributes to alternative means of flatness and depth.

The five artists in the exhibition approach their work with careful planning and techniques instead of chance, refraining from excessive emotion or objectification. As one of the methods, they explore abstract techniques fundamental to painting, such as mark-making and the use of repetitive layers on the picture plane. The layers, built in different methods by each artist, emphasize the flatness and evoke the pure aesthetic structure of painting. They also incorporate contrasting elements in color, material, and form. These include the deliberate superimposition of lines and opposing colors by Largusa and Lee, the ambiguous depth of surface resulting from the materiality of pigments by Schleicher, the hybrid forms bridging different times and spaces by Boggs, and the interplay between the fragments of representation and abstraction, sensorial and formal elements by Choe. Each artist’s exploration of the plane and layer alone sparks intriguing dialogs about abstract art in the present day.

From their distinctive visual languages, we can glimpse into the narratives of each artist’s life and perspective on the world. Lee’s work challenges our visual perception by presenting viewers with an assembly of hovering formal elements in painting, rather than specific objects or images. These coexisting yet reserved and elusive elements may reference his identity and encounters within a multicultural environment. Choe builds abstract narratives at the boundary between figuration and abstraction, revealing a world shaped by the layers of fleeting moments. Schleicher’s vibrant color field pursues a more human aspect, cleverly challenging the exactness and clarity of minimalism while questioning universal order and permanence. Largusa’s abstract paintings hold a poetic sensibility and stimulate discourse in contemporary art through his dynamic brushstrokes that trace the ‘process of painting’ and mark-making over time. Boggs, as the sole ceramic artist in this exhibition, combines Eastern and Western traditions and disparate historical forms to create a transcendental and familiar yet foreign hybridity that prompts reflection on our existence within time.

This exhibition explores the potential expansion of abstraction through their work, offering a fresh perspective on their artistic practices. Largusa, and Boggs, recognized for their robust artistic language, are acclaimed for their work in Hawaii, and Schleicher is actively involved in the art scene in St. Louis, Missouri. Meanwhile, Lee has also been received well by the public in Korea and has his works collected by major art institutions, while Choe is gradually showcasing her artistic prowess now. These five have shared ongoing dialogues and mutual commitment to aesthetic pursuits while interacting in different locations, from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to studios in Hawaii. To support and celebrate their covalent artistic practices, some previously showcased their work together in Flowers for my friends (2019, 2022).

Though their diverse abstract works cannot be confined to a single framework, they share an attitude of traversing between order and spontaneity, learning from history, and layering expressions beyond physical and temporal boundaries. The exhibition explores the prospects and expansions of abstract art in the twenty-first century while looking at how their artistic language questions newness, originality, and their direction within the discourse. It offers encounters with unfamiliar thoughts extracted from familiarity and conventions, inviting the viewers to experience the liberation of abstract minds, akin to contemplating the work titled Untitled.

이대희 Dhehee Lee, Hover50-1, 2023, Acrylic on Canvas, 116.8 x 91cm

Dhehee Lee

Lee presents the Melting Pot and the Hover series in various colors, where newfound spaces emerge through his unique layering of colors. Superimposed organic forms interweave and govern the picture plane, while vibrant textures arise through successive application of pigments in each layer. Using a masking technique, Lee piles up colors and alternates between delicate application, cutting, and removal of masking tapes on the surface, creating stratification that defies the linear progression of time.
His process combines spontaneity and regularity. Some areas are meticulously carved with deliberate precision, capturing specific forms, while along their intricate borders, rough or delicate brushstroke layers create serendipitous matière on the plane. Moreover, these non-sequential layers, at times the bottom layer ascending to the surface, impart a sense of ongoing temporality to the work. Art critic Sungho Kim describes Lee’s work as a painting of times, embodying hybridity and accumulating traces in which the past, present, and future interconnect, affirming the existence of art itself.
Lee’s canvas, containing opposing ideas such as appending and clipping, erasure and disclosure, enfolding and unfolding, accommodates elements of warm and cool colors, transparent and opaque layers, and rough and delicate textures in which homogeneity and heterogeneity can coexist. These elements establish a rapport, aspiring for symbiosis, yet in the unknowable depths, they also prompt reflection on our own lives.

최인아 Inah Choe, Wishing Well, 2023, Oil and enamel on canvas, 45.5 x 53cm

Inah Choe

Choe’s paintings exhibit an intriguing interplay of images, blending abstraction and figuration through a lyrical use of colors. Her exploration of the painting medium revolves around the organic relationships between overlapping images on the canvas, where she excavates and constructs new painterly scenes. She likens this process to an archaeologist uncovering hidden artifacts to recount history.
Choe overlays fragmented memories of abstract and dispersed time and space on the picture plane. Having experienced multiple cultural shifts from a young age, she has developed an interest in the endless flux itself, realizing that ‘the world is a processive state shaped by myriad strata of moments,’ which becomes the foundation of her work. Sensitively responding to colors, forms, and textures derived from narrative motifs, memories, and everyday life, she continuously adds or subtracts formal elements such as lines, surfaces, and colors. Through the interplay of choice and chance, fragmented parts gradually intermingle on the surface, giving rise to new rhythms and narratives. This constructed world, with its cyclical generations and dissolutions of meaning, invites alternative meanings and possibilities. Her narrative-based abstract painting may have stemmed from the reconciliation between one’s inner necessity and the external world rather than the blind faith or friction around us.

Kalani Largusa, Bloom 1, 2023, Mixed media on canvas, 20 x 18in, 50.8 x 45.7cm

Kalani Largusa

Based in Hawaii, Largusa presents distinctive abstract paintings with dynamic brushstrokes and vibrant colors. He usually employs large canvases to maximize the effect of colors, featuring a harmonious interplay of contrasting hues and carefully devised geometric lines that build his layers. He pays close attention to the process of painting itself, delving into mark-making as it is the essential element in both the expression and composition of the painting, such as lines, patterns, and textures. The human desire to express and communicate has been evident since ancient cave paintings, leaving traces or marks on the surface by scratching, scribbling, or smudging, considered the earliest forms of language and imagery, aiming to connect with others.
The representations, patterns, and symbolic signs used for communication vary depending on the region and period. He often references the symbols and methods of Polynesian tattoos and Western comic iconography. For instance, Polynesian tattoos consist of various patterns and motifs from many ethnic groups, particularly symbols representing the ocean, such as fish, seashells, and waves, which have been integral to their way of life. He incorporates these elements into his work to explore the essence of painting and interprets them with his own emotions and sensibilities.
Examining the traces of accumulated expressions, scribbles, and strokes is akin to peering into the process of painting, revealing issues that resonate with contemporary art. In today’s interconnected and mobile world, mark-making, exemplified by Lee Kangso’s bold brushstrokes or Cy Twombly’s expressive scribbles, transcends mere expression to become a form in itself. Amidst this evolution, how can painting persist? Largusa’s abstract brushwork and dashing lines occupying his canvas captivate viewers, embodying an ongoing investigation and timely interpretations of the painting process. His works, alongside contemporary painting as a whole, inspire aesthetic and emotional responses, traversing history and expanding with diverse meanings.

Nick Schleicher, BS2-SKL, 2020, Acrylic, florescent pigment, iridescent pigment, and gel gloss on panel, 14 x 10in, 35.5 x 25.4cm

Nick Schleicher

Schleicher navigates the realm between painting and object in his abstract, color-field paintings characterized by luminous colors and tactile materiality. His work breaks away from the exactness and formality of minimalism in pursuit of something more human and whimsical. By employing shaped canvases in circles, semicircles, and arches, the pigments transcend the boundaries of rectangular frames, resulting in irregular contours that redefine the edge of his paintings. These shaped canvases, resembling amorphous clouds or cathedral windows, enable the painting to extend beyond the frame and engage the viewers in real space.
Each layered color on the canvas seems to infiltrate one another, shimmering ambiguously like patches. His process is informed by extensive study of the canvas, the support for painting, its surface, and the materiality and application of pigments. Thin layers are applied repeatedly with fluorescent pigments and glossy gels until achieving flatness and a strong material presence. The interplay of transparent and opaque irregular layers, enhanced by smooth and shimmering pigments, creates captivating ambiguity and spatiality. The paintings combine psychedelic color sensibility with its tactile materiality, surpassing the surface of pure colors pursued by color-field abstraction, and imbuing materiality to the non-material properties of it. The vivid colors and artificial materiality of fluorescent pigment and glossy gel remind a lively and visually playful element from popular culture in which his work establishes both solemnity and lightness.
His works recall elements that held personal significance to him, such as the traditional Berber carpets of Morocco, colors from The Simpsons or Cape Fear, and the vibrant hues and gooey texture of the slime he played with as a child. These pictorial scenes from memory are filtered into abstract forms, and translated into colors and textures, resulting in something ambiguous and intriguing. The fluctuating color layers in his painting question universal order or eternity. They magically and humorously project the imperfections and mortality of life, full of uncertainties and ambiguities.

Jake Boggs, Kauluoua A, 2023, Stoneware with Slips and Underglazes, 8 x 8 x 20in, 20.3 x 20.3 x 50.8cm

Jake Boggs

Boggs’ vessels sometimes have sealed mouths, intentionally negating the function to contain things, and emphasizing their inherent aesthetic nature as objects. This metaphorically embraces the spirit of each vessel in the potter’s space, a spiritual and metaphysical place described by ceramics theorist Philip Rawson. Boggs draws references from a wide range of ceramic cultures throughout history, combining forms and symbols from disparate traditions to create something new and unfamiliar.
A distinctive feature of his work is the extraction and blending of design elements from various traditions spanning the history of ceramics, resulting in hybridity. For example, he merges the forms of Korean maebyeong and Greek amphora, and reinterprets details from Goryeo celadons, Renaissance dish decorations of Italy, and colorful vessels from ancient China or Greece. He draws inspiration from the primitive forms in Brancusi’s sculpture, the vivid tones and irregular shapes of 1980s Memphis Design, and abstract expressionist painters such as Gerhard Richter and David Reed. Additionally, he references painterly decorative elements found in ceramics history.
His work is characterized by the painterly touches and colorful expressions on the surface of abstract vessels. After firing them at around 1200 degrees Celsius, he textures the surface using various carving tools such as rubber squeegees, sponges, and abrasive pads. He refers to the marvel of colors found in nature and everyday life, including film sets, pavements, fashion, or architecture, and particularly enjoys the colors of tropical gardens outside his studio window. These color combinations are absorbed and translated into his work. At times, he imagines mythological narratives and expresses them through abstract language, subtly concealing semantic codes and symbolic traces in these vessels.
The abstractly translated unfamiliar ceramic objects bear significance in the discourse of contemporary art as they visually represent cyclical history and collected knowledge. The merger of different times and places originates from his existential speculation, as he navigates each moment in life. Such thoughts are distilled into the forms, colors, and visual language of the objects, evoking curiosity and thoughts in viewers through familiar yet foreign sensations.

서울시 강남구 논현로 745

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