Artist Spotlight: Haegue Yang


Haegue Yang, Trustworthy Wave #99, Trustworthy X #100, #101, #104, Trustworthy Double X #102, Trustworthy Diamond #103, 2011

Haegue Yang (born Seoul, Korea, 1971, based in Berlin), works with everyday materials, often domestic ones, to create vibrant installations with sensory effects using light and scent. The 2018 Wolfgang Hahn Prize winner has also created a number of paintings, performances, and video works. Yang graduated from Seoul National University with a BFA and immigrated to Germany in 1994. There she received her Meisterschüler from Städelschule Frankfurt am Main in 1999.

Her works play with the act of revealing and concealing, for example, in her monumental work Storage Piece, 2004, featured a shipping container filled with her earlier works wrapped together on transport pallets. The works inside were are never opened but rather sit in the container. 

Since 2006, many of her installations use Venetian blinds. These works are typically placed on the floor creating a transparent maze where viewers are invited to walk through screens. The see-through structure raises the questions:  What is public?  What is private?


Haegue Yang, Escaping Transparency, 2011

Julienne Lorz narrates the role of the blind as a primary material:

“To grasp [the artwork] in its entirety is unachievable, since a single standpoint does not exist and each angle of approach affords ever changing points of view. The blinds appear variously opaque, semi-opaque or completely transparent and even almost invisible in places. This is further enhanced by the strict lighting concept and the colors that flow from one complementary hue to another, demonstrating the entire available color palette of the industrially manufactured, yet customized blinds. These elements of light, color, and changing angles invite the viewer to physically negotiate the space.”  

Yang’s artwork, Escaping Transparency, 2011, in the Tiroche DeLeon Collection commissioned by Modern Art Oxford, uses one of her most recognized installation techniques, aluminum venetian blinds. What makes this artwork so unique is that for the first time the blinds “escape” eye level and are suspended from the ceiling. This moment represents a departure from what has been a defining characteristic of these installations. As the title indicates the artist's relationship to the venetian blind is conceptually transformed, from a semi-transparent material that is looked through, to an object that is to be looked at. The viewer has the chance to stand below and look up at the system of interconnected geometric shapes that bind the piece together.

Haegue Yang, Escaping Transparency, 2011

At eye level one can admire the colorful and captivating light sculptures of Hague Yang. The artwork Novice Clown – Manganese Carbonate, 2011 uses household objects such as lightbulbs, cables, knitting yarn, and wigs. The artwork shows the spontaneous studio creation and subverts the conventional use of the industrially manufactured material.

Novice Clown – Manganese Carbonate, 2011

The artist explains her practice,

“My driving interests and motivations are often concrete, but my artistic language is one of abstraction. Abstraction is, for me, a way of thinking and working through collective and individual narratives across different histories, generations and locations. They coincide and overlap, becoming comprehensible on a personal level in linguistically unexplainable ways.”

Haegue Yang’s  work has also been included in the following biennials: 21st Sydney Biennial, Australia (2018); Liverpool Biennial 2017, United Kingdom (2017); 13e Biennale de Lyon, France (2015); Sharjah Biennial 12, United Arab Emirates (2015); The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8), Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Australia (2015); Western China International Biennale (2012); dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, Germany (2012); 8th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2010); 53rd Venice Biennial (2009).