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American Appendage

Mary Ryan Gallery, New York
November 11 - December 22, 2010

Opening Reception
Thursday, November 11, 6pm-8pm
American Appendate
Mary Ryan Gallery is pleased to announce Jiha Moon: American Appendage, an exhibition of new paintings by the Korean-born, Atlanta-based artist. This is her first solo show at Mary Ryan Gallery. American Appendage will feature a selection of paintings that combine ink, acrylic, fabric and collage on Hanji paper (Korean mulberry paper) mounted on canvas or silk. Moon blends Eastern and Western imagery and traditional Korean modes of presentation--the use of Hanji paper, her choice of frames, and the reference to Asian fan painting--along with visual icons from her past and present surroundings to explore ideas of cultural identity. The title of this exhibition, American Appendage, draws from the concept that the notion of “Americaness” is constantly evolving. According to Moon, in Korea the majority of people are 100% Korean, both racially and culturally, while in America, everyone is a cultural hybrid of some kind. The addition of the prefix “Korean” to Korean Americans (and similar “hyphenation” of other ethnic groups) downplays the integral role they play in weaving the vibrant tapestry of American culture. Moon seeks meaningful answers to questions like “where are you from?” and “what are you?” 

Moon’s paintings are bold, vivid and energetic. Pulling from Korean, English, and Chinese, as well as visual languages (computer symbols, emoticons, folk and pop imagery), she synthesizes these elements into a visual code, using wit and humor to emphasize commonalities in things seemingly disparate. Fittingly, Moon’s works integrate wildly diverse painting styles as well. She combines expressionist and calligraphic brushstrokes, diaphanous color washes and delicately inked lines, to convey the myriad stylistic influences on her work. Moon often camouflages her techniques, making painting look like drawing and incorporating sculptural elements that evoke the physicality of impasto paint. In her work, the line between what one sees, and what one thinks they are seeing is often blurred. She intentionally plays with the “identity” of painting, mirroring the philosophical aspects of her work. As a result of her year-long collaboration with the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, Moon’s latest work reflects an increased interest in surface texture, incorporating embroidery, collaged fabric elements and “appendages.” The internet and digital communication also figure significantly in this work, as technology has become an extremely important tool for facilitating cross-cultural dialogue. 

Yellno, 2010 Ink and acrylic on Hanji paper mounted on canvas 24 x 26 inches 

Yellno (2010) reflects Moon’s emotional response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The sense of urgency and uncertainty so prevalent during those months reminded Moon of Roy Lichtenstein’s 1963 painting Drowning Girl. In Yellno, the blue hair from Lichtenstein’s girl sweeps across the foreground of the canvas like a wave, obscured by tumultuous brushwork. A menacing black plume billows upward, and various Korean, Chinese, and fictitious characters drift in the chaos. Moon deliberately chooses to include words and characters that have meanings in multiple languages; in this work, the Chinese character “No-rang,” meaning “angry/wild wave” translates to “yellow” in Korean. The title combines both “yellow” and the Korean word, “no,” which means both “yellow” and “great anger.” Word play is yet another tool that Moon employs to guide viewers through her fantastical painted worlds.