Art Review: Ideas, images flow uninterrupted in Jiha Moon's 'Day for Night' - Go Memphis, September 2011

by Fredric Koeppel, September 15, 2011

"Less is more," blah blah blah, but for some artists even "more and more" is not enough. Jiha Moon's exhibition "Day for Night," at Rhodes College's Clough-Hanson Gallery through Oct. 14, shows an astonishing sense of controlled chaos in the 13 pieces that seem, despite an inherent trait of delicacy and fragility, about to burst from the bounds of their edges. The paradox -- delicacy and furious energy, airy patterns and elaborate mess -- permeates this work that manages to be delightful and perplexing without breaking apart at the seams.

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Day For Night

Clough-Hanson Gallery, Rhodes College, Memphis
September 9- October 14, 2011

Download a PDF of the show brochure

Day for Night includes thirteen recent paintings by Korean-Americanartist Jiha Moon. These bold paintings present dreamy landscapes that are super-saturated with a breathtaking array of visual information. The densely composed pictures whirl and tumble like turbulent seas filled with parts culled from myriad sources and influences. The paintings create a liminal space that blurs the lines between East and West, seduction and repulsion, old and new, abstraction and representation, and spontaneity and intentionality. The dynamic paintings are at times laugh- out-loud funny or disquieting in their jarring peculiarity. The artist provides a lens through which to view a magical world where she combines disparate elements, constructing a representation of the frenetic, information-rich world in which we live.

Upon first glance Moon’s paintings can seem unruly in their over-the-top exuberance, but as the viewer’s eyes adjust, one begins to see the sweet harmony at work within the spectacular chaos. It is as if Moon is trying to make a painting using every technique imaginable. Each painting presents its own particular juxtaposition of parts. Bold, gestural brushstrokes and delicately rendered passages mix to form a no-holds-barred visual feast for the viewer. The artist engages us with her elegant balancing act as we dissect the formal layers of her paintings. In Day for Night I we find delicately rendered passages of intensely colored forms bobbing in a fog of watery underpainting. The carefully modulated, flat shapes are contrasted with mushy, gestural swaths of variegated wet-into-wet paint. Watery paint runs and drips into abraded areas, sanded down to reveal the grain of the painting surface. Subtly nuanced Hanji (handmade Korean mulberry paper) is collaged atop richly textured tapestry. While many contemporary painters filter and distill their many influences into a hybridized style, Moon maintains the specific particularities of her multivalent approach. In doing so she reveals the multivalent nature of her practice.

Further inspection proves the paintings are just as layered conceptually as they are in technique. Moon cross-pollinates and assimilates bits and pieces from a wide variety of cultures in an effort to speak to the pluralistic nature of the modern experience. Using a delightful mish-mash of sources that are at times dizzying and elegant she carefully orchestrates varying levels of visual turmoil. Brightly colored pop-images are layered with elements of traditional Asian landscape painting. Wavy tendrils rendered in a trademark Roy Lichtenstein style overlap with decorative elements borrowed from Pennsylvania Dutch Fraktur paintings. Microsoft’s Technicolor butterfly and the Twitter bluebird soar while the Grateful Dead’s tie-dyed smiley face and the head of the Botan Rice Candy dog look on from a distance. German calligraphic letters and classical Korean writing share the space with collaged paisley bandanas while reflective stickers, rubber stamps, and glitter glue pepper the compositions. All of which is held in place by some of the most exquisite, delicate brushwork found in painting today. Dozens of other familiar shapes are inches from the point of recognition. The unpredictable combination of images assures that no two viewers will experience or interpret the work the same way. By establishing a place where these disparate elements can co-exist on the same picture plane, these assemblages highlight points of cultural commonality while savoring the delicious tension created by the dramatic differences.

As I work my way through the twists and turns of Jiha Moon’s wonderful paintings I find myself stupefied and breathless. At some point early in the prolonged viewing experience I find myself doubting her ability to execute everything in one painting, a combination of skepticism and nervous anticipation―but each time I am led to the marvelous moment of synthesis. It is the very same feeling I get watching the neighborhood kids work their magic on their skateboards, flipping, twisting, teetering, and finally executing a brilliant move. Moon’s eloquent painting practice speaks to our own important task as members of modern society: to deftly maneuver the constant bombardment of visual information―from the pop-ups on the computer screens to our logo-filled public sphere. The underlying harmony within Moon’s carefully constructed chaos reflects the opposing dynamic and delicate order found in the complex human world.

Hamlett Dobbins Director
Clough-Hanson Gallery

By mashing up common cultural touchstones, South Korean-born artist Jiha Moon explores our national psyche - Nashville Scene, May 2011

by Laura Hutson, May 19, 2011

Contemporary visual culture is the ultimate melting pot. It lumps together an assortment of images, slogans, brands and ideas that we unwittingly absorb until the blurred line between image and reality becomes the definition, not the regulator, of American identity. South Korean-born, Atlanta-based artist Jiha Moon navigates this chaotic system with a sophistication and familiarity that comes from a life spent straddling worlds. In her art it is possible to see the mirror image of everyday American life, crowded with ideas that swarm against each other with equal parts opposition and harmony.

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Atlanta: In the Studio With Jiha Moon - New American Paintings Blog, January 2011

by Paul Boshears, January 31, 2011

Jiha Moon is an Atlanta-based painter whose gestural paintings explore fluid identities and the global movement of people and their cultures. Featured in editions editions 63, 70, and 82 of New American Paintings, Moon was recently a finalist for the Hudgens Prize, selected by jurors that include the Curator of Prints at The Whitney Museum of American Art and the Director and Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at The New Museum. I had the chance to visit with Moon at her studio where we discussed her recent incorporation of fabric and collage, a bold step for someone who self-identifies as “a painter’s painter.” More images, and our conversation, after the jump. —Paul Boshears, Atlanta contributor

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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.

Art Forum, February 2010

by Rebecca Dimling Cochran

Jiha Moon's increased confidence is evident in this new series of paintings. The tension between figuration and abstraction still pervades her repeated layering of traditional Asian landscapes and gestural expressionism. But this new work seems to revel in the joy of painting, alternating thin washes of Ink with delicately rendered objects and thick impasto brushstrokes, all on Moon's favored handmade hanji paper. Collage also figures in some of the works, as when she adds paper to extend her painted surface from the rectangular picture plane or incorporates fabric appliqués, possibly an influence from her ongoing residency al The Fabric Workshop.

The South Korean-born, Atlanta-based artist still wrestles with the notion of shifting identities, particularly in our image-laden society. Pac-Man-like figures with razor sharp teeth, butterflies, and even Wonderland's Alice find their way into her peaceful landscapes with floating clouds and trees, which are interrupted and by bursts of energetic color. The work speaks of a society that not only straddles two cultures but also occupies a third – in cyberspace. Moon's professed hero Philip Guston started in 1960, “[P]ainting is impure. It is the adjustment of impurities which forces painting’s continuity. We are image-makers and image-ridden. Moon seems to have taken this to heart in her current exhIbition (titled "Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts” in Guston's honor), providing thought provoking interpretations of the multilayered and image-rich world she inhabits.