A Well Place
Root carving (chestnut, zelkova, ginkgo), go board, casters
157 x 155 x 115 cm
Collection of Lonti Ebers, New York
Installation view of Shooting the Elephant 象 Thinking the Elephant, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea, 2015
© Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
Yang’s furniture sculptures reflect the aesthetics of various interiors with origins in different lifestyles, times, and cultures. For example Facilitating Pentagon Seating (2013) is composed of nine trapezoid units covered in the kind of plastic veneer popular in the 1960s. The objects held by the low, table- shaped sculptural group seem to have lost their functionality, severed from their context and meaning. The root carving that appears in the new work A Well Place displays the inefficiency and vague functionality characteristic of a prop from an “outdated” interior. Resembling a piece of ginseng in the shape of a child, the root work sits atop the smoothly polished upper surface of a table made from a tree root. The Chinese character root (槐) in goemok, the word for this kind of root carving, is a combination of the characters for ghost (鬼) and tree (木). The species of zelkova that goemok originally denoted was believed to repel evil spirits, and because of this it was planted by the entrances or in the gardens of palaces during the Joseon dynasty. The driftwood and root carving that appear in Yang’s light sculptures and wallpapers reappear alongside scholar’s rocks and bonsai trees in Poetics of Displacement (2011). Here, the artist is interested in the unconventional reading of folk and cult traditions projecting symbolism, magic, and exceptionalness onto natural forms.
On the other side of driftwood is a go board, for a game of marking out territory with stones. A 19-by-19 grid with a total of 361 squares, the geometric system of the go board is said by some to have originated from the same fundamental principles that have determined the writing, calendars, and sacred texts of other civilizations. The character “well” (井), numerously repeated on the empty go board surface unoccupied by the stones, placidly suggest those debatable yet visionary projections.
(Shooting the Elephant 象Thinking the Elephant Exhibition Catalogue, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea, 2015)
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