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Drawn into Light: Works with Paper by Imi Hwangbo

By: Lilly Wei
Second Street Gallery  2004
Everyone has a vision of perfection, don’t you think?  Agnes Martin

Imi Hwangbo transfixes and is transfixed by detail.  In this group of remarkable drawings on hand-cut mylar, the artist begins with a visual unit and multiplies it, using repetition as a method and, beyond that, a kind of wondrous madness.  Through sheer accumulation—and a nod to other cultures, to modernism, post-feminist ideologies and recent strategies of hybridization—these units become more than the sum of their parts, the quantitative translated into the psychological, the phenomenal into the immanent, cool objectivity into stubborn, passionate conviction. Hwangbo’s obsessively controlled and calculated practice reflects aspects of her generation’s artmaking, at ease with technology, instantaneity and constant change yet seeking their opposite in the hand-crafted, the slowed down, the essential.  Hwangbo’s incremental, extravagantly refined, labour-intensive production is a canny reformulation of what drawing can be today.

Hwangbo’s work is geared toward an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. Derived from meticulously calibrated optical effects, Hwangbo’s works are more actually reliefs, measured, however, in millimeters, and extremely delicate in appearance.  Traversed by light, their physicality suspended, they seem at times like drawings traced in the mind. Made out of 2 to 20, 30 or more sheets of  translucent mylar tinted by archival ink, each element of her construct is hand-drawn, scanned into a computer, printed, then carefully cut by hand and layered so that the edges appear as fine, precisely rendered, colored lines, the final three-dimensional image created out of a stack of graduated mylar sections.  One of her sources for her reds and blues is pojagi—the beautifully patterned large, square cloths Koreans traditionally used for wrapping, carrying or covering objects. Hwangbo’s geometric motifs and lacy botanicals are also related to pojagi designs, filtered through a modernist syntax of diamonds, circles, and squares configured as infinitely expandable systems in which solids and voids are similarly important and mind and dream intertwine.


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