In an interview published last January in Flash Art, the Berlin-based Korean artist Haegue Yang (b. 1971) proffered: “There is a mysteriousness and spirituality in the most banal things.” The mundane, often domestic objects (clothing and shoe racks, electric fans, strings of lights) that she evocatively juxtaposes in her meticulous sculptural assemblages are striking reminders of the veracity of such a claim.
Over the past several years, venetian blinds have become one of Yang’s objects of predilection. The five sculptures in “Ajar” (all 2012), her first solo show in France, included the aluminum variety in a rainbow of hues. From the series “Dress Vehicles,” Yin Yang and Zig Zag feature these colorful window coverings hanging from crisscrossing metal frames that the artist has crowned with plastic flora, decorated with macramé or elastic rope strung with small bells, and put on casters. Both voluminous geometric contraptions possess barely discernible central spaces, allowing a person to stand inside and drive them. Yang has likened these architectonic sculptures-cum-costumes to baby walkers and has acknowledged as inspirations Georges Gurdjieff’s Sacred Dances and the mechanized Triadic Ballet (1922) of Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer. (In terms reminiscent of Merce Cunningham, she also asserted in the Flash Art interview that dance “is a general term for movement.”)
The other three works on display belong to Yang’s series “Chandeliers.” Suspended from the ceiling on gridlike metal frames, Swedish Villa, Clowny Yin Yang and Drifting Tree House with Orangey Branches consist of venetian blinds with multicolored slats around which are equally vibrant, draped and loosely knotted electrical cables powering frosted lightbulbs. Despite their materials, these hybrid light fixtures exude a delicacy and elegance on par with their crystal or glass counterparts.
Yang arranged the blinds in her “Dress Vehicles” and “Chandeliers” so that they are neither entirely open nor entirely closed, thus creating a play between interior and exterior as well as between transparency and opacity. The title of the exhibition underscored this intermediary position. While the five sculptures on view reveal Yang’s nuanced eye for and rigor in composition and color (think Sol LeWitt), her decision to emphasize and exploit the esthetic possibilities of ordinary window treatments also calls to mind their role in traditional Korean houses, known as hanoks. Translucent, hand-woven bamboo blinds have ornamented the windows and doors of interiors of these dwellings for centuries, enabling women relegated to the feminine hearth to peer outward into the masculine public sphere without being observed. Drawing attention to the charged symbolism of commonplace objects, Yang encourages viewers to recognize the ways in which we depend on them to navigate the intricate and fluid boundaries between public and private.
Photo: Haegue Yang: Zig Zag, 2012, from the “Dress Vehicles” series, aluminum Venetian blinds and mixed mediums, dimensions variable; at Chantal Crousel.