By: Ann Wilson Lloyd
Art in America, March 2008
Imi Hwangbo’s three-dimensional drawings consist of aligned layers of Mylar — sometimes as many as 30. Each layer is hand cut with incredible precision in all-over stylized floral or geometric designs and mounted with slight spacing in between layers, to create delicate sculptural reliefs.
Hwangbo bases these works on drawings translated into digital prints. The Mylar sheets are printed with colored ink, which thinly outlines the edges of the cutouts. During the cutting process, each petal, line or shape diminishes in tiny increments from one layer to the next, so that, once the sheets are assembled the color against white Mylar on the top layers look pastel but seems to condense as the outlined edges grow closer together, yielding a deeper-hued interior.
Lepidoptera (2005, 73 by 15 by 3 inches) is a vertical swath of approximately 1- inch circles containing six-petal flower designs, like miniature rose windows. The top layer of Mylar is cut into a similarly scaled pattern of six-sided cubes, reminiscent of little LeWitt drawings, lining up precisely with the centers and edges of the underlying circles and petals. Everything is outlined in pale blue ink. Shadows and texture turn it into a diaphanous rectangle of blue from a short distance.
Sylph (2007, 10 1/2 by 7 1/2 by 1 inches) is a mass of more naturalized 1-inch flowers — all petals, no geometry. The blooms, outlined in dark pink, are cut to look as if they overlap each other in a dense bouquet. Peri (2007, 15 by 7 1/2 by 1 inches) is a similar design, in a half free-form, half rectangular format, suggesting a stylized cluster of blue clematis blossoms crowded into a right- angled corner.
Judging from the virtuosity of these works, Hwangbo’s dexterity with the mat knife is limitless, but she has nevertheless moved into laser-cut aluminum in two of her newest wall-mounted works, Lacunae I and II (both 2007 and 13 1/2 by 15 1/2 by 2 inches). These black metal pieces are single layer, making them essentially line drawings of flowers with curving stems. They seem closest to what Hwangbo claims as the source for all this work — the stylized flowers and other shapes on printed fabric pojagi, the colorful squares of cloth traditionally used by Korean women to wrap and carry things. While handsome, the metal pieces lack the complexity, texture, and most of all, astonishing handcrafting of the Mylar works, which have almost as many layers of reference as of material.