Hyon Gyon is an artist who is not afraid to let things get messy. In her fourth solo exhibition titled She’s a Riot at Shin Gallery, Gyon takes over the main gallery and project space with an assortment of mixed media sculptures and large-scale paintings. Born in South Korea and currently residing in New York City, Gyon draws from her Korean heritage, pop culture, and sexual politics in her practice. She is not limited by materials and works with satin, gold leaf, cement, and plaster, as well as found objects. The presentation as a whole comes across as deeply personal, layered, raw, and rich in context.
Situated on the floor in the main gallery, Self-Portrait is comprised of objects arranged on top of a single bed mattress. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle socks, a purple wig, a winking smiley face pillow, paint splattered cut off shorts and sneakers, and handmade stuffed animals consume the mattress’ surface. Gyon has chosen these objects for a reason – together, they construct/deconstruct identity and sense of self. Tracey Emin’s My Bed comes to mind here. Hanging on a nearby wall is Green Eyed Monster, a compelling mixed media on canvas piece that hints toward the psychological and Gyon’s interest in Korean shamanistic imagery. We are faced with a one-eyed creature made of muddled gold, pink and purple paint, blue Muppet-like hair, and blooming flowers emerging from a green turf background. It has human hands and a gaping mouth exposing sharp gold teeth. As if ripped straight from a child’s bad dream, the image is whimsical and menacing at the same time. Constructed from an accumulation of stuffed animals and materials, I Lived Well displays a lumpy figure seated on a chair. Attributes such as a crown, white plaster trophy, and single flower raised like a staff suggest that this is a person of good fortune reflecting on life. The assumption is complicated once the binding chains are taken into account. With an air of dry wit, God Knows That I’m Tired furthers the idea that life is a constant struggle. Here, the work’s title is written out in gold paint on a beat up green blanket. A boxing glove labeled with the artist’s name dangles limply from the upper right corner.
A monumental oil painting titled I Love You hanging in the project space conveys deep sexual undertones. Rendered in a sketchy, expressive manner on a bubblegum pink background, nude female figures center the chaotic composition and command the viewer’s attention. One woman looks out at the viewer while another is on elbows and knees and wears what looks like a Playboy bunny costume. Men’s faces in a severe profile are peppered throughout. A heart at the upper edge looks down on the scandalous activity below. The imagery is contained by a hand-stitched decorative pattern that follows the canvas’ edge. In the painting Kedamono, a dark murky face emerges from a gold leaf background. Smaller faces, figures, and marks fill up the rest of the composition. Kedamono translates from Japanese to beast, reinforcing the painting’s mood as dejected and unstable.
She’s a Riot shows Hyon Gyon as an artist willing to peel back the layers to access deep emotions, experiences, and memories. Using an arsenal of surprising materials and objects, she then builds these intimate layers back up in her sculpture and paintings. We sense that Gyon holds nothing back, creating a distinct visual language that is unfiltered, beautiful, and disordered, just like life.
She’s A Riot is on view at Shin Gallery through February 5, 2017.