Haegue Yang at Galerie Chantal Crousel

For the past two years, Haegue Yang, long known for her Venetian blinds and modular bell installations, has re-animated an overlooked medium: paper cutouts. Yang’s new, delightfully expressive paper collages are a major artistic turn—to use her words, a leap.

“Mesmerizing Mesh—Paper Leap and Resonating Habitat” brings together nineteen paper collages and new sculptures. The flat cut-out compositions, which seem to bloom in tessellated patterns, are made with traditional hanji, or mulberry paper. Framed and mounted behind glass, they contain sharp, detailed imagery that cuts like fangs: ghostly transparencies, robotic or animistic monsters, praying mantises, crabs and bulls, unknown beasts that spew leaves like fire. When you step back, some look skeletal, as if plucked from a Day of the Dead procession. They conjure the sensations of re-animation, possession, reincarnation, and exorcism.

Yang’s “Mesmerizing Mesh” series is the result of contact with shamans who employ cutouts in performance rituals for healing, spells, and commemoration. In contemporary Korea, shamans are, paradoxically, both respected and socially marginalized. Politically, Yang is interested in shamanism as a counter-authoritative practice. Yet, her view is syncretic, informed by Shinto, Slavic, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, Jewish, and North Indian paper-cutting legacies (as evidenced by the library of specialist literature that is displayed in the gallery.)

Yang’s practice is rooted in her continuing research into craft, philosophy, literature, belief, and even on isolated historical figures. Uniting the works’ surface intricacies is a searching philosophy of abstraction, one that gleefully flouts the dogmas of European modernism. Like her previous installations, Yang’s latest series is unshackled from the familiar chokeholds of that canon—in its arbitrary splitting of use and ornament, of instrumentality and autonomy. Yang repurposes craft not only as an embodied form of spiritualism, and hardly as a restoration of the past, but as a generative labor of love. The result is paper magic.

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