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Aspen Art Museum Presents an Exhibition of New Works by Internationally Renowned Artist Haegue Yang
Haegue Yang, Pine Spell – Ashed Winter, 2010. Courtesy of Kukje Gallery, Seoul. Photo by Nick Ash.

ASPEN, CO.- The Aspen Art Museum presents an exhibition of new works by internationally renowned artist Haegue Yang, the AAM’s 2011 Jane and Marc Nathanson Distinguished Artist in Residence. Yang’s exhibition will be on view through Sunday, October 9, 2011.

Haegue Yang creates work in various media, including installations with photographic, video, and sculptural elements informed by the artist’s philosophical investigations. Her work is distinguished both by a poignant and refined sense of materiality—or, as DIA curator Yasmil Raymond termed it, a “material agony”—and the artist’s elegant sense of atmosphere and space.

While Yang frequently explores themes of migration and travel within her work, these are manifested less in the physicality of the artwork than the sentiments it embraces. Inspired by Taoist tales about the ability to travel miles with each step (often embodied in Western folklore by magic boots), the title of her exhibition speaks to the preternatural skills needed for a life on the move: what Yang calls “folding the land.”

The seven sculptures within Yang’s exhibition at the AAM are the result of her time as the 2011 Jane and Marc Nathanson Distinguished Artist in Residence and vividly explore other senses of folding, merging, and migration. While Yang has always incorporated an admixture of organic and industrial items, the new sculptures take on a quality that the artist describes as “less tamed,” due to the use of materials either purchased or found primarily within the region combined with those from other locales and repurposed for the work. For instance, within the light sculpture Mountain Mermaid, which features locally collected/sourced pinecones arranged decoratively around an artistically twisted tree trunk, Yang combines seashells and oyster shells received from friends from around the world. The result is an overall impression of a hybrid of the mountain landscape conflated with that of a seascape. For Yang, it is important that the specific sense of both places remain autonomous—neither blatantly revealing exact sources of time or place—in order to appear to the viewer as completely imaginary in nature and composition.

Another example of the artist’s use of shifting places are seven wall-mounted light sculptures Manteuffelstrasse 112-Single and Solid (2011), each of which replicates the radiators and water heaters Yang lived with in her former flat in Berlin. Hung below eye level, these replicas become mere sculptural objects that allude to their functional domestic counterparts. Constructed with alternate domestic materials for display in a public sphere—their frameworks draped with light bulbs strung behind colorful Venetian blinds—these facsimiles simultaneously elide a functional determinacy all too familiar while remaining conceptually oblique.

For The Art and Technique of Folding the Land Yang has also created a new space divider that accommodates ten newly produced paper collages entitled Trustworthies-Masks (2011). Made from used envelopes with particular attention paid to the rarely-noticed patterns found inside to prevent the contents from being read by other parties besides the recipient, the Trustworthies consider the “lives” of these industrially produced items, including the distances they travel, their function of protecting the information enclosed, their ephemeral material quality, and also the nuanced variety of their design. Trustworthies-Masks (2011) are oriented in portrait format, as opposed to alternate landscape versions.

In yet another exploration of the theme of enfolding time and place, Can Cosies Pyramid – Spam 340g Gold (2011) employs 387 Spam cans wrapped in hand-crocheted golden cosies arranged in pyramid form. With the intention of playing with ancient architectural pyramid form and its purpose—singular structures connoting monolithic forms of power, exclusivity, and privilege—to the seemingly banal modern pyramids of stacked commercial goods in supermarkets (representative of commercial appeal and hierarchy), Yang also adds a personal nostalgic consideration of Spam as a product known for its historical links to wartime cultures. In Asia, particularly, the product is known for its association to occupying American forces beginning with its product deployment in Japan during WWII.

The Art and Technique of Folding the Land examines places near and far, the natural and artificial, the realms of domestic and public through various types of works, such as wall-mounted light sculptures and paper collages. The large-scale wallpaper Yang designed in collaboration with Berlin-based graphic designer Manuel Raeder, gathers disparate elements from her work to create a free-floating, highly energized field titled Field of Teleportation (2011).

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