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September 18, 2021 - October 24, 2021
September 18, 2021 @ 3:00 pm
Gina Han’s most recent work represents the welcome end of a decade-long hiatus from the contemporary art conversation in Los Angeles, CA. Since the last time Han’s paintings were shown the colors have leapt off the plane and entered three-dimensional space. Han’s compositions are recognizable as uniquely hers, yet the tight control once wielded has given way to change and chance.
Han’s carefully hewn, painted, sanded and re-painted cubes are brightly displayed in plexiglass jewel boxes arranged in more complex compositions. They sometimes bring to mind Damien Hirst’s medicine cabinets or Larry Bell’s Light and Space transparent masterpieces. These works are not derivative of any specific work and their immediacy and profound release of control feel important, challenging and joyous all at once.
with Gina Han and Richard Speer
My paintings and sculptural installations look like straightforward examples of abstract art, based in the Western art tradition. However, elements of these artworks come from other sources, especially two different influences from East Asia—Taoist philosophy and East Asian pop culture. Another profound influence comes from time spent in South America, where I absorbed the rhythms and tempos of Latin culture and experienced the intense sensory impact of nature in the tropics.
My artworks are inspired by Eastern concepts about the inevitability of change and the value of spontaneous, unforced action. To explore change, chance, and the possibility of open-ended expansion of the creative process, I create sculptural installations of colored cubes that can be reconfigured by viewers. Each group of cubes combines colors that together create a distinctive color “chord” that evokes a particular feeling. Viewers can be invited to participate by arranging the colorful modular cubes on the white floor—building them up or scattering them about, creating various shapes or designs, architectural forms or cityscapes, changing and morphing the composition as they choose. Even though I don’t directly solicit playfulness and humor, these qualities emerge naturally and are an important part of my work, as they help people feel a sense of openness and belonging.
My artistic process is also informed by the values of simplicity and natural, unforced action. While the cubes seem simple and unadorned, it takes a great deal of time and skill to create the smooth texture, the rich color, and the warm, handmade feel that I aim for. Using grain filler, I patch and sand the wooden cubes to build a smooth surface, then paint them and sand them, over and over again. These actions are simple enough, but one has to be patient and present to achieve the desired result. As I engage in this unhurried, repetitive activity, I am reminded of the more relaxed tempo of life that I experienced amid Latin cultures—and that now seem perfectly suited to my working process. I enter a tranquil space of stillness and flow. Time slows down, and the work becomes a meditation.
Color—a kind of energetic vibration with profound physiological and psychological effects—is central to my work. Just as my process of making the cubes flows naturally, as I mix the paint, I create colors that emerge intuitively without effort, analytical thinking, or planning. I want to make colors that can wake all the senses, colors you can feel with your whole body, through the skin and the other senses of touch, smell, and hearing.
Some of my colors come from my South American memories—the deep, vivid greens of tropical forests, the pure cerulean blue of the sky, and the rich reds that evoke the scent of humid earth. Other colors are influenced by East Asian pop aesthetic, which expresses dichotomized ideals—such as cuteness/violence and sweetness/sexiness—through powdery pink and baby blue pastels in contrast with strong, acidic, or harshly artificial colors. I too use some of these sweet colors, with playful intent. They draw viewers in with their candy-like appeal, but their excessive sweetness hints at the unstated presence of the opposite quality in the dichotomy. Something looks like something you might want to eat, but beware—if you eat too much, it will make you sick.
The interplay of other dichotomies associated with East Asian thinking is also fundamental to my work. In their initial form, the cube installations, each with its suite of harmonized colored cubes contained in clear boxes and neatly mounted on the wall, together create a presentation of orderliness that evokes related qualities such as discipline, industry, cleanliness, meditative, intellectual/academic, and cerebral feeling. Next, participants step in and disassemble that order, creating temporary chaos, and then possibly reinstate order in new designs. In addition to the order/chaos duo, other dichotomies can be discerned: Analytical/intuitive, playful/static, safe/danger, comfort/edgy, flexible/rigid, and sweet/bitter. The fact that each quality is part of a dichotomy is important because each aspect gives form to and defines the other. One cannot exist without the other.
Each of these artworks is offered as the beginning of many possible continuums, and the sculptural rearrangements of the participants manifest some of the infinite possible outcomes. Each outcome, in turn, could form the basis for future transformations. By yielding artistic control, I aim to facilitate an opening for unpredictable change and a space where pleasure and even joy can emerge naturally.
—Gina Han, August 2, 2021