ArtsATL > Art+Design > Review: Gyun Hur’s “In a Landscape Anew” with Hudgens Center solo show

Review: Gyun Hur’s “In a Landscape Anew” with Hudgens Center solo show

Gyun Hur’s works of memory and migration at the Hudgens Center for the Arts, through February 11, convey a sense of wistful transience that might be best expressed by W.B. Yeats’ famous phrase “Man is in love and loves what vanishes.”
The new installations, videos and mixed-media works of “In a Landscape Anew” are one outcome of the young Korean émigré artist’s year as the first recipient of the $50,000 Hudgens Prize. The award gave her, in addition to this exhibition opportunity, the resources to revisit her native city of Daegu, which she left with her parents when she was 13, and to recalibrate her already successful aesthetic.

Hur came to public notice spectacularly with the March 2011 piece “Spring Hiatus,” a carpet of shredded silk funeral flowers laid down by the artist and her assistants at Lenox Square mall. The colorful stripes of the temporary installation quoted the look of her parents’ traditional Korean wedding blanket.

The installations of “In a Landscape Anew” use a more subdued and minimal palette. Instead of clearly separated stripes, one piece consists of bands of closely related shades of yellow-green, blending almost imperceptibly one into the other. The result is more organic and ambiguous. The possibility that this ambiguity might be a metaphor for some larger concept is reinforced by the use of mirrored boxes that flank the rectangle on two sides, each box topped by the green of artificial turf, as blatant as the powdery shredded silk is subtle. An adjacent wall presents dim, washed-out projections of photographic images showing a vintage Korean garden and the greenery of contemporary nature in Kentucky, as glimpsed on a road trip.

An adjacent installation (shown above) consists of a small boulder surrounded by a shredded-silk square that is partly dark orange and partly black, with a clearly delineated, jagged boundary between the colors. This piece, too, is accompanied by a mirror, though this mirror is meant to reflect the scene outside the gallery window rather than the work itself. A mound of the pale yellow-green shreds of which the other piece is made sits alongside this anything-but-Zen rock garden.

The symbolism here is opaque, and the details are intuitive rather than analytical. Emigration brings a psychic displacement as well as a physical one, but the condition of living between cultures can be a spur to reflection (pun intended) as well as life between the faded perceptions of disconnected recollections of past and present and the confusing shape of a new landscape.

Hur situates her striking color combinations and allusions to Asian aesthetic traditions in a context derived from schools of contemporary art in which collisions among geometric form, intellectual concepts and organic nature create an emotionally disconcerting encounter. If the symbolism is elusive, the power of the immediate viewing experience isn’t.

The stripes that Hur made into her previous trademark are an expression of joy wrested from the transformation of expressions of sorrow, and this dichotomy is explored in the adjacent videos and smaller pieces. One video documents the process by which Hur and her family transform discarded funeral accoutrements into the raw material of installation art, while another documents an endurance performance in which the artist and a companion wheeled carts of plastic cemetery flowers through the streets of downtown Atlanta.

The collages and mock-maquettes in a hallway gallery are playful presentations of imaginary placements of Hur’s stripes in situations where they couldn’t possibly be created in the shredded-silk medium: everything from hair coloring to ocean waves. The results are as lighthearted and humorous as the main installations are hauntingly meditative.

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