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23 Questions for Painter and Knick-Knack Collector Jiha Moon - Blouin Art Info, Febrary 2014

by Ashton Cooper, February 10, 2014

Name: Jiha Moon
Age: 40
Occupation: Artist
City/Neighborhood: Atlanta, Georgia

The title of your show at Ryan Lee Gallery is “Jiha Moon: Foreign Love Too.” Where did that title come from?

The body of work for my solo show with Ryan Lee Gallery is a continuation of my work from my solo show “Foreign Love,” which is now at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in North Carolina. It originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia. As a foreigner living in the States myself, I often think about what authenticity really means and I think we often misunderstand it. The title is from this idea of how we often fall in love with what we think of as foreign or exotic to us.

For that show you also created ceramic objects for the first time. What was it like working in a new medium? What techniques did you use?

Clay is something that I have always been attracted to and wanted to try. Ceramic has a long history connecting East and West. As an Asian American artist, this is such a rich area to explore and to research. I actually enjoy the unexpected and uncontrollable process of kiln works. Not everything comes out perfectly, but I’ve learned what to expect from this process.

I have been exploring the idea of Asian blue and white ceramic, celadon and crackle glazes that people easily associate with Asian ceramic works. For example, I put together some old pine trees and Angry Birds as part of a landscape drawing in the manner of blue and white style on ceramic.

Also, learning how to do things in a ceramic studio, I purposefully make pots and vases non-functional. I’ve learned that many ceramicists often distinguish between functional and decorative work. As a painter this notion was a bit harder to accept, and I started making ceramic works that look like they are broken. However, these works were built perfectly and sliced and put together before they went to the kiln. Nothing was broken but they are meant to look that way. My ceramic work has influenced my own painting work as I work back and forth between two studios.

Your show at the Weatherspoon Art Museum recently opened and you just had a solo exhibition at MOCA Georgia. How does it feel to be getting that kind of institutional recognition?

I was in an important museum group show called “One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now” at Asia Society in 2006, which Melissa Chiu curated; at the Drawing Center in New York in 2008; and had a solo show at the CUNY Graduate Center that was curated by Katherine Carl. I moved to Atlanta in 2006 from Washington, D.C. and have lived here ever since. Atlanta is the city that I have lived in the longest except for my hometown, Daegu, South Korea, where I grew up. It is such privilege to be recognized and have several museum shows in the South in America.

What project are you working on now?

I am working on new paintings and ceramics for shows at the McNay Museum in San Antonio and for the National Academy Museum in New York.

What’s the last show that you saw?

Rashid Johnson’s “Message to Our Folks” at the High Museum in Atlanta.

What’s the last show that surprised you? Why?

I loved Rashid Johnson’s show. The way he handles the subject and material are very specific and at the same time touching broader and bigger cultures and audiences.

Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.

I am an artist and I am also a mother and a wife who is multi-tasking many things at the same time. I get up, check my email, social networks, news from here and Korea online, and go to my studio by 11 a.m. I work in my studio until I pick up my son at his school around 5 p.m., and then come home and cook dinner for my family and spend time with them. After my son goes to bed, I do some correspondence or other business-related work on the computer. If I am not too tired I often go back to my studio by 9 or 10 p.m. and work until I go to bed.

Do you make a living off your art?

Yes, so far.

What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

Hanji — it’s Korean Mulberry paper. I buy a year’s supply when I visit Korea.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

Everywhere! I read labels and take pictures of logos on products at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. I am a sponge and observe everything and adopt things into my work. I image Google things all the time, and search words in different languages and read Wikipedia pages constantly. I read articles just as much as digging through art books or going to galleries or museums. Any of these can be inspiring and give me ideas for my work.

Do you collect anything?

I collect many things from all over the place. I have hundreds of souvenirs and knick-knacks in my studios. I also collect art often. I try to buy what I can afford but I also have been trading with other artists who I love. My husband and I have quite a nice collection of contemporary art.

What’s the last artwork you purchased?

Last year my husband and I bought two pieces from Kansas City artist Jaimie Warren’s self-portrait series. We love her work.

What’s the first artwork you ever sold?

I sold a large oil on canvas of my grandma’s funeral painting to one of my professors at the University of Iowa when I was graduate student there.

What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?

My 4-year-old son, Oliver, screamed at me, “I hate this work!” at the Dali show at High Museum and stomped his feet really loud last year. I got shocked and had to remove him from the situation immediately.

What’s your art-world pet peeve?

People who can’t focus on the conversation for a second and keep looking around at art openings. Artists who I don’t know who ask me to introduce them to my galleries at the openings. People who give me stink eyes when I bring my little son to the openings.

What’s your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

Any Korean restaurant on Buford Highway in Atlanta, and Koreatown in Manhattan has lots of great fusion Asian/Korean restaurants and fancy bakeries for coffee and snacks.

What’s the last great book you read?

“Night Studio” by Musa Mayer. I am on and off and still reading.

What work of art do you wish you owned?

Any of Philip Guston’s later paintings.

What would you do to get it?

Dream big!

What international art destination do you most want to visit?

I would love to go to the Venice Biennale next time.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?

I think I am an under-appreciated artist... definitely Asian artists; any minority artist should have more opportunities to be seen and appreciated in the art world.

Who’s your favorite living artist?

Sarah Sze, Nick Cave, Do Ho Suh.

What are your hobbies?

I like cooking. There is something similar between cooking and painting.