Rise Above:

Central Fine Miami Beach presents Rise Above:. A solo project by Jiae Hwang.

In Rise Above: Hwang explores the demand implicit in the phrase, and the expectations to perform accordingly. By ‘Rising Above’ one is expected to confront another well-known demand: Sink or Swim. This expectation to perform places us in a situation were language depends on interpretation as a key element. The artist proceeds to approach the demand to perform as if such demand was a sort of ‘linguistic-cultural ready-made’ while purposefully interpreting it in another way: Rise becomes Rice. In that space, what comes next is a phonetic interpretation that bypasses the initial demand and goes in full-force into what the artist calls ‘another type of translation’ bringing the artist’s subjectivity in stark contrast with the original imposing sentence.

Hwang proceeds to throw and later trace, remove and paint Rice on top of large colored silk pieces. This gesture, to throw rice, is an auspicious act in the West, but in Korea, where Hwang was born, throwing rice is a disrespectful gesture towards economy, labor and tradition. To throw it on top of silk would be an even greater offense, as it would be a double negation of highly charged symbolic elements. Hwang doesn’t go for that, but rather pursues the space where interpretation brings forward new meaning. Hwang’s choice of silk is determined by the artist interest in the colored fields present in the fabric, as well as the cultural connotations that are evident when deciding on a black silk background, a see-trough silk, or man’s suit silk. Silk then, arrives as a ready-made that offers the artist the possibility not only of reaction against the gender-charged fabric (either male or female) or the cultural value placed on silk, but also and of utter importance, places the act of painting against a pre-determined background color, texture, etc. Jiae Hwang acts like an editor, a collector of cultural weight and associations, and reacts to those notions accordingly.

Hwang’s project understands Rice, Silk, drawing, lines and marks, the West and East as ready- made concepts; and from that understanding proceeds to approach painting as assemblage: Superimposing Color-Field abstraction procedures like staining, and other AB-EX gestures against the Colored-Field/Ready-Made present in silk; or pairing trompe-l’oeil with the ready- made colored background (a cultural background too). These formal concerns are joined by the performative act of ripping fabric to cut the silk -as if it where a punk t-shirt against the solemn silk painting tradition. The artist leaves in the exhibition the clothing rags used to hang her careful paintings as ready-mades that offer either their specific function or whatever interpretation the audience can apply on them. Her silk steamer is shown as well. Fashion, Dry-cleaning, Silk painting, trade, are all faced as cultural pockets ready to be filled.

As a conceptual shift, Hwang presents a YouTube-found looped video of penguins jumping onto an iceberg. The penguins are expected to ‘Rise Above’ but instead they find themselves sliding, falling, or plainly swimming back into the ocean, behaving like fish, unable to fly like other birds. Their performance, as fish, prevents them from ‘sinking’ so, if they can’t fly, if they can’t ‘Rise Above’, they might as well ‘Sink or Swim’. The ready-made video becomes an infernal loop of sorts, or a punctuation that presents an even denser layer into the reading of the exhibition.

In short, Jiae Hwang’s project concepts such as reading, performance, language, expectations, all are translated and interpreted through a subjective lens, a lens that emphasizes equality and a leveling out of sorts that generates unexpected value. For the artist: To Rice equals To Rise, the trompe l’oeil of rice is placed on equal terms on top of the Ready-Made ground, the Ready-Made ground meets on equal terms Color Field abstraction, and Color Field Abstraction encounters a ‘Colored Field’.