Art In America

Haegue Yang

at Greene Naftali,
508 West 26th Street

Sol Lewitt famously insisted that “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists.” Lewitt’s insight is an apt reference point for this exhibition of highly varied sculptures by Korean artist Haegue Yang, who once described in an interview her interest in the “mysteriousness and spirituality in the most banal things.” Those things include the white venetian blinds hanging in rows from florescent light fixtures in the main gallery space. The titles note an explicit homage to Lewitt, and the arrangements of the window treatments evoke the serial configurations of some of the American artist’s classic works. The gallery walls here are painted a color that looks like a cross between Yves Klein’s signature blue, which the artist associated with spiritual yearning, and the Container Store’s trademarked navy. The big-box store feel is offset by the work in a nearby gallery where delicate framed collages made from security envelopes hang on blue walls adorned with gold spirals and arabesques. These pieces bring to mind the work of Johannes Itten, an early faculty member at the Bauhaus whose Zoroastrian-inspired aesthetic theories imparted a lasting mystical vibe to the paragon of rational modernist design culture. Yang’s range as an artist is confirmed with a series of crafty, bulbous floor sculptures—many adorned with plants and bells—that are a world apart from the aluminum blinds. They could be mistaken for pagan totems, yet small details pull them back into the mundane 21st century. Many are on metal steel rolling stands and made of artificial straw. Through this back-and-forth between the banal and the transcendent, Yang’s raw materials—including the air-conditioning units—concrete blocks and vents arranged into pagoda-like structure in the gallery’s courtyard—are made extraordinary and even ennobled without obscuring their fundamentally prosaic character. —William S. Smith


Pictured: Installation view of Haegue Yang, "Quasi-Pagan Minimal," at Greene Naftali, New York. Courtesy Greene Naftali, New York.

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