Ran Hwang graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts, New York, and subsequently went on to attain her Masters Degree in Fine Arts at the Graduate School of Arts Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Korea. This Korean-born artist currently resides and practices her craft in New York, and is best-known for creating intricate, large-scale wall installations with exquisite materials from the fashion industry such as beads, buttons, pins and thread.
To the artist, buttons and beads symbolize the commonplace ordinariness of human beings; pins being the points of connection, and threads as a communicative link. Using a hammer to pound thousands of pins into walls in the process of her art, Ran Hwang herself projects the austere embodiment of a monk practicing spiritual discipline and Zen. This repetitive and laborious working process results in grandiose images of objects and beings, representing the natural and divine, in an attempt to address current social issues. Through her works, she constantly seeks to explore and delve into human experiences and connections, as well as positive and negative spaces.
For the past decade, her works have been exhibited in both solo and group across the globe in countries such as Korea, Switzerland, USA and France, and are collected by distinguished hotels, museums and companies including the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Hong Kong, the Shin Choi Fashion Company in New York, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul.
Ran Hwang has completed several residencies such as at the Performance Space Studio Residency Program in 2011; the AAI-Artist Alliance, Lower East Side-Rotating & Long Term Studio Program in 2006; as well as the Full Fellow ship, Vermont Studio Center Residency Program, Vermont, U.S.A in 2004. Her works have been awarded the Gold prize at the AHL Foundation Annual Arts competition, New York in 2004; the Kyung-In Art Grand Exhibition at Puchun City Museum, Korea in 1996, and the Korean Water Watercolor Public Subscription Exhibition, Cultural Art Promotion House Art Hall, Seoul in 1995.
By Thalia Vrachopoulos, Ph.D
Music and Art John Jay College of the City University of New York
Seoul's dynamic art scene owes as much to its rich cultural legacy as it does to globalist trends, for it is here that East meets West and Japan meets China. The resulting cross-fertilization is apparent in the enthusiasm for Korean diaspora artist as well as in the burgeoning presence of satellite organizations such as the Seoul branch of the New York-based artist, was chosen for the gallery's inaugural show. For many years, Hwang has been creating works involving Eastern religious philosophies. However, for this exhibition, she has broken new ground: her work has always critiqued religion by trivializing spirituality while depicting its appropriation by popular culture, but she has recently intensified her concentration on aspects of commodification, Rather than dealing with religious ideas, she emphasizes women as they relate to the marketing strategies of fashion industry. This is evident not only in her themes, but also in her use of materials such as crystals, buttons, threads, colored wires, and other glittery elements that reference fashion or jewelry.
Chandelier Woman (2007) consists of a three-quarter silhouette: the figure's swan-neck is embellished by a gold thread necklace, her upper torso dotted in pearls, her ears hung with large pearl earrings, and her head bedecked with a floppy hat made of faceted crystals in the form of a chandelier. The silhouette is cut out of Plexiglas and mounted seamlessly on handmade paper. The figure is reflected on the paper as an outline, giving the impression that it is drawn rather than sculpted and thus blurring the boundaries between sculpture and drawing.
Hwang's choice of common materials can also be seen as an effort to break down the boundaries between everyday life ad high art.
Garden of Light (2007), which can be associated with Zen meditative aesthetics through repetition, marks Hwang's move away from wall assemblages. In this site-specific installation, eight plexigals panels are hung intermittently and pierced by long pins threaded with crystals that combine to form gardens or fantastic environments. In the darkened room, color refractions from a video component are projected onto the structure, resulting in myriad reflections of soft colors. The light arising from the moving crystals and the video light that changes according to audience participation work together to produce a multi-layered work akin to the artist's moods, ranging from sadness to joy. Through her use of glamorized female images, Hwang points out the capitalist exploitation of women as sexualized consumers and unobtainable sex fetishes associated with copulation and titillation. By highlighting these components, she hopes to overcome arising from such constructs that exploit the gaze.
2010: Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2009: Dreaming of Joy, Gallery Kashya Hildebrand, Zurich, Switzerland
2X13 Gallery, Paju, Korea
2007: 2X13 Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2006: Hass Gallery, Bloomsburg University, PA, USA
2005: Open Studio, Vermont Studio Art Center, Jonson Vermont, USA
2004: Hutchins Gallery, Long Island University, New York
2002: Yee Mook Gallery, Seoul, Korea
Hudson River Gallery, New York, USA
2000: Artsenal Gallery, Paris, France
2006: AAI-Artist Alliance, Lower East Side-Rotating & Long Term Studio Program, New York, USA
2005: Full Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Residency Program, Vermont, USA
2004: Gold Prize, AHL Foundation Annual Arts Competition, New York, USA
1996 :Gold Prize, Kyung-In Art Grand Exhibition, Puchun City Museum, Puchun, Korea
1995: Gold Prize, Korean Watercolor Public Subscription Exhibition, Cultural Art Promotion House Art Hall, Seoul, Korea
Art World Grand Prix, Kyung-In Art Museum, Seoul, Korea
1994: Korean Fine Art Grand Exhibition, National Contemporary Art Museum, Seoul, Korea