VSF is pleased to present a focused exhibition of paintings by New York-based artist Mark Yang (b. 1994, Seoul, South Korea), the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Yang’s recent dynamic, multi-figure paintings are rooted in the artist’s experience as a member of his high school wrestling team, a contrasting culture of masculinity in Yang’s Korean upbringing in America, and continued dialogue with the Western masters. Abstracting musculature and interlocking bodies as building blocks for structure, Yang considers a range of topics including stereotypes around masculinity and the nude’s ubiquity in art history.
The form of intertwined wrestlers have served as inspiration for artists for centuries: found on the exteriors of terracotta Greek craters, in Japanese Ukiyo-e, and in the paintings of American artist Thomas Eakins, to name only a few examples. Yang uses intertwined bodies—most often male, albeit vaguely so— in his work as a site to expand upon contemporary male intimacy, friendship, and physicality. This subject also offers a site for Yang to visualize the body in motion and unexpected patterns of shapes from the collisions of the figures. The artist’s background in illustration is most visible in the colorful, clean lines that create the contours of the artist’s intertwined forms, the works evade, at least in part, legibility and straightforwardness.
Yang paints, according to the artist, “from imagination,” emphasizing that he’s less interested in painting precise figures than he is evoking people’s internal lives and shared emotions. Choosing the term “ambiguous” to describe the 5 paintings hung here, Yang emphasizes the generalized nature of his figures. If the artist’s earlier paintings were more clearly gendered and raced, the identities of these figures are more unclear: figures are usually turned away from us, and heads disappear between flailing, multicolored limbs. Backgrounds are oftentimes layered with single-toned swaths of color for luminosity and pulsation. The only painting that gives any hint to setting is Sand Bond, which takes place on a beach, the sand, water, and sky visible as colorful bands.
This installation is the first iteration of and Milk, a smaller project space within Various Small Fires in Los Angeles.
Mark Yang (b. 1994, Seoul, South Korea, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) received a B.F.A from Art Center College of Design and an M.F.A. from Columbia University, New York. He recently held a solo exhibition at Steve Turner, Los Angeles and been in group exhibitions at Wallach Art Gallery, New York; Saga, Seoul; Steve Turner, Los Angeles; Thierry Goldberg, New York; Ki Smith Gallery, New York. His work is included in the public collection of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.