Shining Light on “Shades of Time”


By Tanya Silverman

Buddha Falling in Love. By Ran Hwang. 2013. Paper buttons, beads, pins on Plexiglas.

The lights faded out for “Moonlight”, Jayoung Chung’s zither performance. A full, lunar circle shone on the blackened backdrop. As she strummed her stringed instrument, white lights danced along with the music, trailing from starlight waves, to feathery cycles, to falling raindrops. The serene sounds stopped, then the moon set downward over Chung’s head.

Lights faded in. Sun You took the stage to talk about her approach of manipulating everyday domestic items, like rubber gloves, pipes, clips, or eyelash extensions into art, plus her methods of adapting installations to different environments. Clicking through overhead Powerpoint slides, she described her technique of taking decorated laundry dry racks from the floor of one gallery, then “altering, taking apart, rearranging, and rewrapping around” the equipment to hang from a “very menacing dark ceiling” in another.

At the Queens Museum, Sun You installed some tinier household items, like buttons, nuts, bolts, earrings, needles, knobs, and pins, as part of an exhibit outside the institute’s theater. Called Shades of Time, co-curator Kyunghee Pyun describes it as a “survey of Korean-American artists who came of age around the ‘90s and 2000.”

Writing in the Void. By Yooah Park. 2006.

Last Saturday, Shades of Time was brilliantly illuminated by the summer sunlight that poured in from the windows facing the epic 1964 Unisphere. Object art was arranged closer to the windows, including, on the floor, a flat alignment of chopsticks into squares, and on the ceiling, a hanging set of stainless steel plates shaped to resemble big brush strokes.

Wooden Floor. By Jean Shin. 2002. Disposable Wooden Chopsticks.

Dozens of paintings by artists hung on the wall close by. Pyun explains how, “In the beginning, many of them were abstract expressionists, or really drawn to minimalism, but then gradually they moved on to different media.”

Observing the selection to locate methods where artists “reverted back to their own traditions,” Pyun points to one work with colored rice paper, and another of a lollypop-looking floral bouquet, Western imagery painted through Korean folk style.

Boldly noticeable is a dazzling Buddha by Ran Hwang, created from a multi-layered course of pastel beads posted on a reflective glass slate by inserting a “specific type of nail” at a “a subtle angle so it never goes in.” The sturdy, upright technique was inspired by 9/11, as her means of commemoration.

Concurrent themes expressed social activism and community organizing through mediums like preserved pamphlets or inscribed photography series in this densely packed, but aptly organized, gallery display.

All photos by Tanya Silverman.

“Shades of Time: An Exhibition from the Archive of Korean-American Artists, Part Two, 1989-2001”, is organized by the AHL Foundation in collaboration with Korean Cultural Service of New York. It will be on display at the Queens Museum until Jul 20, 2014.