Perambulating the Bounds

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Jiha Moon

Usually when I’m in DC and have time to look at art, I head downtown to the big museums. I keep going back to the galleries in the old building of the National Gallery because you never know when you’ll get your next chance to stand in front of a Titian, Van Eyck, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Giotto. When you live outside the kind of place that has such paintings on hand, you are aware of what privilege is involved. And the great wealth behind it.

This Saturday in DC I finally got to the gallery district on 14th Street. I actually started out in Bethesda, at a little gallery where my mother is involved, Creative Partners. They were showing the winners of an annual prize competition in Bethesda, the Trawick Prize. The show had a surprisingly “downtown” look, and it turned out half of them are showing simultaneously in the downtown galleries. No doubt it has to do with the choice of jurors, who included the director of one of those galleries. It was a bit cozy, but seeing the same people in multiple related venues gave a sense of a coherent scene.

The prize winner in Bethesda was a woman named Jiha Moon who draws/paints in a style that includes part Korean ink paintings, Renaissance etchings, pop culture flatness, and rich color abstraction. She also has a show running at the Curator’s Office on 14th Street.

Many of the pictures are built on a base of forms within a narrow color range of sepia or blue, sometimes the color of mimeograph paper. Within and on top of this ground she inserts elements in other colors of ink, or patterns in acrylic that pop off the surface. Some of the work is done on silk, and some pieces on a multicolored traditional Korean ceremonial cloth. Like Degas, she plays hard and soft, organic and geometric against each other. On the White Columns site there’s a reproduction of one of the works in the Bethesda exhibit, Lucky Red Cedar, and you see among the loosely sketched clouds and trees limbs a series of straight, fine, hard edge lines. Within the billowing, atmospheric forms there are passages of fine point draftsmanship. All in all, the pictures are lovely and complex.

It was easy to get the sense that Jiha Moon is on the verge of emerging in some way. Two shows, whispering about a curator from the Hirshhorn looking into acquiring a piece for the museum, a couple of articles in the post. Then again, it may just be the fine work of the curator Andrea Pollan, who is representing Moon through the Curator’s Office. Still, this is one of those cases where it will be interesting to see if the artist gets more attention – inclusion in biennials, writeups in the big mags.


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