Art Review

Review: Hong Seon Jang Goes Over the Moon -- and Under the Desk -- at David B. Smith

There are only a few days left before the end of the official run of Hong Seon Jang: waxed/waned at David B. Smith Gallery. I say "official" because the show will be on view through the end of December by appointment.

Born in Korea, where he earned his BFA at Dan Kook University, Jang moved to New York to work on his MFA at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He now lives in New York City. A conceptualist, Jang has written that he is interested in "the comparison of human activity and natural phenomena [and] the circulation of destruction and creation." That's pretty open-ended, and it provides only the slightest of insights regarding what waxed/waned is all about.

See also: Review: Discovering and Interpreting the West Takes a Fresh Look at the Landscape

The show's various installations, using found or ready-made materials, are diverse in appearance and subject matter. Nonetheless, the whole thing somehow works together, and as you consider the connections, certain understandings begin to emerge, though they aren't necessarily consistent with one another.

First up is "Chair," in which a jalopy chair lift has been mounted so that the seat is tipped, making it unusable. It's a striking sight by itself, but then you notice that on the other side of the space, there's a round light fixture mounted high on the wall near the ceiling, and the meaning changes. The light fixture reads like the moon (it's titled "Moon," just in case you miss the reference), which makes "Chair" a stairway to heaven.

This reference to the earth in space is further stressed by "Minerals," which looks like a set piece from 2001: A Space Odyssey. For this work, Jang has taken aluminum foil, compressed it, then shaped it into forms that evoke small mineral crystals arrayed across the top of a ridiculously tall plinth that's painted white.

Beyond "Minerals," the theme of waxed/waned shifts to war, beginning with a found desk on a low stand that suggests the floor, all of it covered in cork-patterned contact paper standing in for camouflage. The oppressiveness of its form and surface is reflected in its title, "Bunker," under which is refuge from war from the sky.

But the pièce de résistance is "Prayer Rug" (pictured), in which Jang has made a replica of a rug with hundreds of facsimiles of military ribbons. He's lined them up and attached them to a piece of military tent fabric. It's stunning.

You know you're not going make an appointment, so head down in the next day or two to David B. Smith, 1543 A Wazee Street, before the show closes on November 15. For more information -- or for those who do want to make an appointment -- call 303-893-4234 or go to

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia