The shadows from Kwang-Young Chun’s Aggregation 12_Jn_02 carved an unusual cityscape on the wall of Mixografía at INK Miami. Is it sculpture or is it print? Resembling aerial views of cities or groupings of populations over space and time, Chun’s topographical prints cast actual shadows. Though somberly monochromatic, they are playfully ironic in their use of print (text) on paper to make prints on paper in a sculptural way that has an abstract ability to communicate without being legible.
Small, pyramidal monochromatic shapes pop up from the surface of Chun’s prints and are separated by thin lines a few inches apart, which divide the compositions like the creases in a folded map. These recall the linear structures of Agnes Martin, while the physical surfaces aggressively allude to the ordered chaos of Jackson Pollock or Mark Toby. They reveal both Chun’s appreciation for both Abstract Expressionism, acquired during graduate school in Philadelphia, and for the traditional Korean art training he received as an undergraduate.
It makes perfect sense that Chun found his way to Mixografia to translate his huge sculptural paper conglomerations of geometric shapes into prints. (This is his second project there.) Chun created 3-D col-lages on boards, made from triangular and rectangular shapes covered with torn bits of Chinese and Korean texts. These texts were reprinted with an equivalent of “puff paint” or raised ink, which Chun then tore, reconfigured and hand-dyed to cover shapes he adhered to the surface of his orignal model, from which Mixografia then made a mold. They then spent over two years mixing, molding, inking and pressing to develop the dimensional copper template from which to pull the prints. It takes 8 hours to pull one print: inking the plate with various colors and densities of ink, working in, on and around the shapes; making the paper and laying it, still wet and pulpy, on the landscape of the plate, stretching over shapes resembling tiny mountain ranges, cityscapes and valleys; running it through the press at very high pressure.
Chun’s multinational career has shaped his understanding of communication and societies, and his intention is to “express the conflicts and struggles … between people, or between the past, present and future, though delicately hidden behind a dangerous harmony.” With illegible fragments of text arranged over sculpted surfaces, Chun creates harmonious areas that fade from light to dark in the manner of a flock of birds changing direction. Lower, lighter reliefs congregate at the top of the prints, while larger, higher, darker elements collect near the bottom, suggesting gravitational pull or the way certain groups of people bunch up in particular parts of cities. It is impossible not to think of these as city maps with grids and crease lines.
Chun compares his work to “the scars of our bodies, conflicts between society members, wars between nations, man’s exploitation of nature and nature’s suffering from it—all units and the natural, social groups they constitute are dynamically conflicting with each other,” and wants it to “document ‘the force and direction of their energy.’” With their cast shadows from 3-D components arranged in meaningful, abstract compositions, Chun’s prints, physically, mentally and ironically confound and compel.