Gi (Ginny) Huo: "line/"
October 26 through December 7, 2022
By JONATHAN GOODMAN, November 2022
The title of Ginny Huo’s installation “line/” denotes the artist’s emphasis on line both as a formal attribute and as a device joining imagery, mostly sculpture and photographs, having to do with family–for example, Huo’s grandfather, a photographer during the Korean War, an important influence. This spare show allusively demonstrates personal feelings within a highly conceptual structure. Work like this needs written explanation to clarify the hidden but not opaque intentions of the artist. In conversation, the artist helped unravel the concealed ties between works that feel very much like abstract sculpture but which act as demonstrations of Korean history and references to family ties and identity.
Huo was, remarkably, raised as a Mormon by her family and went to Brigham Young University for college before getting her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. Now residing in New York City, she has been exploring her life’s background with unusual creativity. This exhibition is decidedly allusive, resulting from notional ties made real by lines connecting the wall works, and sculptures reflecting the cultural and familial interests of Huo. The photos of her family, along with writing (including poetry), takes the line as a basis for the creative impulse. Personal imagery places Huo in the center of works that do not directly image her person. As a result, the environment can feel mysterious; we don’t always know what the implications are. Sometimes her private references remain private. But her imagery’s indirection suggests a reading of the artist’s history, Asian and Western.
Observatory (2022) consists of a cube covered with vinyl showing an image of an ancient Korean wall. The piece is taken from drawings Huo made of Korean observatories while studying Korean astronomy. In the center of the cube’s top depression is a photograph of feet in a circle (indicating people looking up); the viewer would look down at the image. According to Huo, this work attempts to relay her interest in what can be seen, along with the idea of challenging the meaning, maybe even the existence, of heaven. It can be argued that Huo has created a place to investigate and contain memory. For so conceptually based an artist, whose life has involved two very different cultures, memory becomes the line joining disparate events. Observatory orients us toward historical continuity and communication even as it questions tradition. It also celebrates early Korean technology.
Three vertical lower reliefs, inter-calling I, II, and III (2022), constructed from vinyl, wood, and steel, are connected to other objects with rubber cord. Each of the works–reliefs, really–present a view of blue sky. Photographs are found in the second and third works. In the second work, there is a photo of Huo’s grandfather in high school, playing a game with other young men. A large ball, held by one of the participants, is visible on the right. The line of young people is broken up by three golden yellow circles, which tend to cover the handshakes surely existing behind them. Why is this done? Does the image have historical or personal significance? It isn’t fully clear. Namu (2022), a black-and-image of Huo’s father and his friend climbing a tree in Korea, shows us a rocky cliff supporting what looks like a blasted tree. The two men’s faces are covered with yellow dots for anonymity. The image refers to Huo’s research topics, which includes recent Korean history, the Korean War there especially, as evidenced portrayed in family photos taken in the 1950s and ‘60s. These images sparked her interest.
Huo is an artist driven by suggestion. Nothing in the show directly conveys the complexity of her background or feeling. The installation could be hard to intuit without the commentary of the artist. This could mean that the ambiguity of her reasoning remains at a distance from the viewer. Yet, her poetics are high, and evident, even if they are sometimes lost in translation. Given that Huo is determined to suggest rather than declare, a useful strategy in contentious times, we highly appreciate both her methods and her theme. WM
Jonathan Goodman is a writer in New York who has written for Artcritical, Artery and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications.
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