Ina Jang’s Radiator Theatre By Yael Eban

ONE FOUR
Aug 29, 2019 4:40AM

Ina Jang’s Radiator Theatre By Yael Eban


Ina Jang was born in South Korea, and has lived in both Tokyo and New York. Her multilingualism and constant travel between three countries underlies her lens-based practice. In Radiator Theatre Jang creates a visual lexicon of her own, describing the series as “a range of wordplays, rhymes, misinterpretations, exaggerations, and lies through lyrical shapes and colors.” We all know the feeling when a word is on the tip of our tongues. The scientific term is lethologica, or the failure to retrieve a specific word from memory, combined with the feeling that recovery of the word is impending. Jang’s poetic and ambiguous photographs channel this sensation.

Some of Jang’s cut paper shapes are familiar—shrubs or rocks, perhaps—but more often it is difficult to identify and name a specific object in the photographs. This elusiveness does not, however, detract from the expressive and animated quality of the abstract shapes. Each uncanny form seems to have a distinct personality in Jang’s perceived two-dimensional world. Her choice of color is similarly intangible. She is drawn to the challenge of mixing hues that are difficult to name or describe—colors on the edge of other colors. The complexity of Jang’s paint choice inserts another layer of ambiguity to her dreamlike scenes, denying viewers the ability to assign specific cultural or psychological connotations to her alluring color schemes.

The title of the series partly refers to the circumstances of Jang’s practice, which is in a corner of her small studio apartment. Jang observed that the path of light from her south-facing windows prominently illuminates the large radiator a few feet away from her bed. Using the top of the radiator as a blank stage, Jang builds small three-dimensional sets out of paper that she paints and cuts, and shoots the tableaux with natural light from the nearby window.

The act of shooting is rigorous and physical. Jang prefers to shoot during winter because the shadows are longer. Of course, this means that her shooting is limited to cloudless days. The radiator is dreadfully hot, but the window must stay closed to protect the fragile structure from gusts of wind. Malleability is crucial to Jang, who must be able to edit, cut, and reposition the pieces many times before arriving at a final configuration. She never adheres the paper permanently; the delicate fragments are barely held together with blue tack, and collapses occur frequently. The temporary sculpture must follow the sun as it moves across the room, and by sunset Jang often finds herself shooting on the floor, covered in sweat with an aching back.

The results of her immense effort are photographs that appear effortless. Jang’s clever compositions call to mind the masterful interplay of Matisse’s cut-outs, while her enigmatic de Chirico-esque shadows play supporting roles to the paper actors. In the piece Theatre Disco, Jang’s role as auteur culminates in a dynamic ensemble. The painted backdrop is a stage upon which a psychic drama is performed, and the audience hangs on her every word.

ONE FOUR