October 1, 2020 – April 5, 2021
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada
Installation view of Emergence, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, 2020
Photo: Craig Boyko
Haegue Yang: Emergence, the first North American survey exhibition by the acclaimed South Korean artist, opens at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Oct. 1, 2020 and runs through Jan. 31, 2021. In addition to the 82 works featured in the exhibition, the AGO has commissioned two new works by the artist.
On view, suspended above the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Sculpture Atrium, Woven Currents – Confluence of Parallels (2020) is a large-scale installation composed of venetian blinds and LED tubes, inspired by the layered architectural history of the space. Tectonic Undulations – A Fugue for the Great Wilderness (2020), a new wallpaper designed by Yang and American artist and book designer Conny Purtill, will go on view later this year in the AGO’s South Entrance.
“Woven Currents – Confluence of Parallels exposes the layered architecture of the AGO and makes its intricate history visible. The genesis for this work was the Two Row Wampum Treaty of 1613, a belt made from wampum shells that I learned about while at the AGO. The belt is an agreement between the Five Nations of the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) and the Dutch government,” says Yang. “I was struck by how powerful this treaty is, so unlike legal documents we are accustomed to, and how an object can clearly convey a lasting message about the values, hopes, and beliefs of those who created it. These thoughts led me to connect the parallel lines of the wampum belt, which maps a trajectory for two very different peoples, to the linear structure of venetian blinds. Like history itself, these lines are entangled.”
Curated by Adelina Vlas, the AGO’s Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Haegue Yang: Emergence will be on view on Level 5 of the AGO’s David and Vivian Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art. A leading artist of her generation, this focused survey of Yang’s artwork includes large-scale installations, sculptures and two-dimensional artworks from the last 25 years, and intentionally resists any kind of chronology. Works from various moments of Yang’s career, from the mid-1990’s all the way to the present, have been assembled and grouped together, in order to prompt new meanings and new readings. The exhibition title, Emergence, refers to a natural, social, and economic phenomenon in which a whole entity exhibits qualities and behaviours that its individual parts do not have on their own.
“Emergence is a concept that revealed itself during Yang’s residency at the AGO in July of 2019. It is both the theme of this exhibition and its desired effect,” says Vlas. “It is what can happen when artworks and people come together, escaping the narrow conditions of their construction. From the selection of sculptures welcoming the visitor on the fifth floor, to the presentation of the series of Non-Indépliables; from the Anthology of Haegue Archives to the Lacquer Paintings; and from the Can Cosies to the Sol LeWitt Vehicles, one can trace the development of a deliberately idiosyncratic practice rooted in conceptual strategies and a partiality to everyday materials. Our intention in bringing these complex works together was to reveal the emergent relationships between them and their respective contexts of creation.”
Addressing historical and contemporary narratives of migration, displacement and belonging, Yang’s rich visual language of everyday materials includes venetian blinds, canned goods, light bulbs, drying racks, knitting yarn and bells. By incorporating sound, light, air, smell, and movement into her works, she transforms our understanding of these objects, creating allegorical figures that resist simple definition, being at once local and global in nature.
“Yang’s awareness of her own place in the world in general and in the art world in particular,” says Vlas, “instills her work with a profound criticality evident throughout her career. Particularly exciting for us at the AGO is how, in time, Woven Currents – Confluence of Parallels will become part of the AGO Collection and emerge a participant in a continuous process of becoming.”