JTF (just the facts): A total of 15 color photographs, framed in white and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are digital c-prints, made between 2013 and 2015. Physical sizes range from roughly 20×14 to 34×24, and all of the images are available in editions of 5. A site specific installation made in collaboration with Karen Cho is shown in the gallery’s front window. This is the photographer’s first solo show in New York. (Installation shots below.)
Comments/Context: For those following the front edge of contemporary photography, Ina Jang’s work will seem both freshly crisp and altogether of the moment. Her playful brand of photoconceptualism relentlessly tests our perceptive abilities, using a now familiar bag of optical tricks and illusions that mixes studio portraiture and made-to-be-photographed sculptural construction. What sets her apart from the throng of young photographers exploring in this area is her eye for the simplicity of a strong graphic element, and it brings a lightness to her work that is missing from many of the more self consciously brainy efforts we’ve seen lately.
Nearly all of Jang’s portraits are interrupted in one way or another. Anonymous female heads generally float against pastel backdrops in the center of the frame, only to be obstructed by various cutouts that tug at the balance between depth and flatness. Strips of hole punched dots, cellophane filters, the slats of white window blinds, and a faux woodgrain board with a hole in it all impair our vision, adding uneasy mystery to the faces, and a big blue hair bow and oversized hands get in the way, perplexing us with their off kilter scale and rephotographed layers. Each image is an exercise in clever frustration, an upending of the straightforward that doesn’t feel overly forced.
The best of Jang’s still lifes are equally unexpected. While cutout vases, rephotographed folds, and flat objects have been done before (and better), an image of an ear and fingers poking through a flowered bedsheet (a “garden”) is much more durably surreal. Black polka dots from a dress seem to spill over onto the wearer’s hands and flat red roses hang in the blue sky like a wallpaper pattern, creating compositions that are more than visual one liners. What’s needed here is a bit more toughness in the editing, to get beyond the most obvious to the constructions that twist our perceptions with more whimsical and experimental weirdness.
Jang has a distinct visual voice, and even though she’s still working through which techniques she can exploit best, her pictures are evidence of plenty of ideas percolating around. Elegant, seemingly effortless conceptual simplicity isn’t easy to pull off consistently, but Jang is clearly building a case that she can deliver it with style and graphic punch.
Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced between $2000 and $4000 based on size. Jang’s work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.