blood, sweat and snot – and Dior Backstage Eyeshadow Palette in neutral tones.
These images came to me unfiltered when I recently entered Laurie Kang’s studio.
Toronto-based Kang is the first artist-in-residence for the Horizon Art Foundation, a new nonprofit in downtown LA that nurtures emerging and mid-career artists from around the world. Horizon provides artists – four per year for up to three months each – with work and living space in LA and a stipend. Next up: Sara Cwynar, Phillip John Velasco Gabriel and Ilana Savdie. The aim is to free them for about three months at a time, to create experimental work in an environment that is not hampered by deadlines and exhibition pressures.
Kang is finishing her residency so we stopped by to see what she’s up to.
When we arrived, the 4,500 square foot space in a warehouse in the Fashion District was flooded with late morning sunlight. Twelve-foot sheets of glossy, unfixed film hung from the ceiling like drying animal skins and “tanned,” as she puts it, through the window panes. They had shot shades of beige, taupe, purple, rose and gold. A cluster of bowls on the floor, of various sizes, held cast aluminum foodstuffs – a school of sperm-like anchovies in one, a halved head of cabbage with veined flesh facing up in another – floating on what appeared to be puddles of soup or bodily fluids, but actually cast silicone.
The organic, carnal feeling to the work makes sense. Kang, an identical twin who works in Photography, sculpture and installation, clearly interested in it the ever-changing human body and issues of identity.
“I really feel like my work is so much about creating situations for change,” says Kang. “We are porous beings, we are always in a state of becoming in relation to other bodies and the environment around us.”
Horizon Chief Artistic Director Christopher Y. Lew says the organization chose Kang – who is 37 and sees herself as somewhere between an aspiring artist and a mid-career artist – to kick off her residency, because she is at a turning point in her career.
“We were thrilled to invite someone who thinks about installation and experimentation with media,” he says. “Also in view of their presentation at the Triennale des Neues Museums 2021 – she had this ambitious installation with wall studs and more of her experimental photography – we thought this was a good time for her to expand her practice and get to know LA.”
The hanging slides, as wide as two bed sheets and attached to light rails on the ceiling, which Kang sees as the veins and arteries of the room, are an installation called “Molt.” The material is to be developed in a controlled darkroom, then the image placed in a lightbox, like a bus shelter, and backlit. Instead, Kang explains that she “abuses” the material by exposing it to sunlight and letting the colors come out organically. The work changes with the daylight, moving between opacity and translucency, sometimes monochromatic and sometimes with bleeding color blocks, like a Rothko painting. In this way, the material itself embodies the notion of change, particularly as it relates to the body.
“It has a lot to do with the ongoing state of becoming – for a body, but also what it means for photography to resolve an image,” says Kang, adding that the title refers to the shedding of skins. “And the colors – They all feel like they are made of one body. Bruising or bone marrow or blood. interior colors.”
A series of photograms, collaged works with line drawings and cast rubber formations, is called “mesoderm”. Kang weaves a grid of artist’s tape over the paper – which she considers her skin – and then tans it in natural sunlight. The drawings, including figures carrying vessels on their heads and abstract forms, are made using darkroom chemicals.
“I don’t try to be skillful in my renderings; I’m more trying to express an effect through the line,” says Kang. “There’s a double helix, our DNA, so you work with that shape as well as other anatomical shapes like nerves, spinal cord.”
Kang draws heavily on her Korean heritage to get work, she says. “Mesoderm” is based on a traditional Korean quilt-making process called Boyagi. The installation of stainless steel bowls that Kang sources from a Korean kitchen supply store is informed by her upbringing. It means “mother”.
The shells’ “guts,” as Kang calls them, are cast aluminum foodstuffs in what appears to be tinted liquid in shades of Nude, cream, gray and peach. The liquid is translucent and shiny in appearance; but it could also be read as muddy water, spoiled soup, or sickly bodily discharges. A pile of silvery chestnuts floating in it resemble tiny brains. Curvy Asian pears look almost organic in nature. A molded silicone tube wrapped around a lotus bulb looks like a human umbilical cord.
“For me, food is a way to think about things that are outside of us, going in and then going out again as they are spiritually occur in our body and change over time,” says Kang. “I mostly use foods familiar from my upbringing, which feels like they’ve calcified inside me or almost become part of my internal skeleton or scaffolding.”
Kang says there are no concrete plans for the future of the plant. Horizon artists retain sole ownership of the work they create there. She has a solo exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery in London in March 2023 and some of the work might show up there. But most of all, the months at Horizon have been a time of unfolding, she says.
The huge space of the studio — compared to her 300 square foot studio in Toronto – allowed her to literally and figuratively spread out.
“It’s almost like a garden in here; It feels like there are different storylines for the things that I can work on separately but strive for at the same time,” she says. “It was so expansive for me to have this space.”
Which also led to a personal transformation.
“It’s really allowed me to grow and change,” she says, “and have a deeper understanding of the intimacy between all these seemingly disparate parts.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-04-04/horizons-inaugural-artist-laurie-kang How artist Laurie Kang “misuses” material to create tactile, sensual installations