Hyun Kyung Yoon presented two series of new work in her third solo exhibition at Cross MacKenzie Gallery in an exhibition titled Why, Ai Weiwei? (January 9th – February 28th, 2015). Yoon is an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where she also received her MFA in ceramics. She now splits her time between her Richmond studio and her studio in Korea. Yoon’s recent series exposes her playful sense of humor with work that parodies the art of the Chinese art superstar Ai Weiwei.
Above image: Hyun Kyung Yoon, Full Moon Jars; Why, Ai Weiwei? at Cross MacKenzie Gallery
“…Yoon’s recent work appropriates the ceramic work of the powerful and provocative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, turning his practice of appropriation on its head. Weiwei, internationally known for the controversial use of significant historical Han and Qing Dynasty vessels in his artwork, employed ancient ‘ready-mades’ dipped in garish industrial paint to comment on the mythology of civilization, connoisseurship, and monetary value. Obscuring the original, historic, museum-quality artifacts’ surfaces resulted in vessels of surprising beauty.”
Yoon’s Full Moon Jars question Weiwei’s methods, exploring what authenticity, function, and ceramic process (everything Weiwei removed) contribute to his concepts. She appropriated Weiwei’s piece and created a representation of it. Yoon very cleverly, though, made her representations using ceramic, a process and medium that actually restores the objects to their original state of real and functional. Weiwei turned a real thing into a representation and Yoon has turned a representation into a real thing.
Yoon’s work is both an ode to the Chinese art superstar and a playful poke at his formula of shifting iconic symbols for a big effect. She reverses the formula for a “Yeah, I can do that too” comment and then presents her parody as something you might find in an art souvenir shop – crude, but close enough to be recognized. While Weiwei questioned the monetary value of ancient pots, Yoon questions the value of Weiwei’s pots. Weiwei’s Moon Jars sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars each and Yoon’s for a mere $850 at Cross MacKenzie. Weiwei de-glorifies history by painting ancient vessels bright colors and Yoon, in a strange way, has de-glorified Weiwei’s work by creating more of them, reversing and nullifying his powerful statement of destruction.
The second series of work presented in Yoon’s new exhibition is a sharp contrast to the direct conceptual approach of her Full Moon Jars. Her Indeterminate Lines are three-dimensional drawings hovering gently off of the wall in a grid. From a distance they look like doodles related to calligraphy, playful in their form and in the tangled shadows they cast on the wall. Their forms and surfaces vary from set to set with Intermediate Lines/White Series referencing familiar domestic objects and Intermediate Lines/Green Series referencing vegetation and growth.
While Yoon’s two series of work don’t seem to visually connect, they are united by their sense of humor and play. When Maximo Caminero destroyed one of Weiwei’s vases in a “political act” in 2014, Weiwei commented that the Dominican artist’s argument “doesn’t make much sense.” I wonder what he would say about Yoon’s parodies? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Justin Crowe is Writer-at-Large for CFile
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