Material based sculpture can be immensely captivating, transforming everyday and unexpected objects through scale, quantity, and precision of assembly into breathtaking constructions. The untitled work of Hong Seong Jang currently installed at the Second Street Gallery falls into this category. Like many found object works of art, however, it struggles with the contrast between low quality materials and their re-purposing as a sculptural medium.
There are two aspects to the installation. Dark images on the walls appear to be scratchboards, a matte black surface with a silvery image peeking though. A closer look reveals a matte black surface with tiny strips of frosty cello tape layered one on top of the other to reveal an image. The small pieces of tape are crisp edged and architectural, they seem almost computer generated, like a 1980’s imagining of future graphics. The image is that of dark forests and clouds which swim into focus through an unusual play of light. The forests are lit as though a bright light shines into the trees on an overcast pitch-dark night.
These works are transformative, which is to say the medium is revealed only upon close inspection. The image of fluffy clouds seems like the work of a procrastinating office worker passing hours in his cubicle. The images seem to capture a feeling of haunted longing, with cold office materials imagining the dark natural world far beyond. While the works are beautiful and interestingly crafted, the images overall seem more meditative for the artist than interesting for the viewer.
Turning away from the images on the wall, there is a large installation covering the floor. Laminate squares lay side by side, each with a design gaudier then the last. Some of the laminate squares rise up to form short walls, small obstructions, or obstacles. They seem to be climbing objects in a child’s playground or the slick short walls of a bath house.
The artist’s attempted transformation of the space fills the gallery with a bright play of colors. However the initial sense of wonder fades quickly as the piece suffers from a lack of scale. The artist statement refers to the floor of the Sistine chapel as inspiration for the piece. The laminate squares stop abruptly leaving a large portion of the wall bare, which heightens the cheap feeling of the laminate and leaves the room feeling incomplete. While the artist may have intentionally done this to contrast the illusion of his installation with the nature of his materials, it diminishes the effect of the altered environment and costs the viewer the unexpected experience of an exotic mosaic tiled floor.
There is something missing, whether it be the a larger sense of extravagance, a complete and purposeful over-taking of the gallery space, or an understanding on the artist’s part of how to carry a message through. The piece is curious and engrossing, but it somehow manages to miss the mark.
~ Rose Guterbock and Aaron Miller