Ina Jang, Utopia @Foley

JTF (just the facts): A total of 5 color photographs, displayed unframed against pink walls (and atop pink shag carpeting) in the paired storefront windows of the gallery. All of the works are archival pigment prints, made in 2016. Physical sizes range from roughly 24×17 to 40×27, and all of the prints are available in editions of 3. The show also includes one sculpture, from 2017. (Installation shots below).

Comments/Context: Ina Jang’s newest photographs explore the limits of intentional reduction as an artistic approach. Starting with images of young women from Japanese magazine websites, where suggestive poses and flirty behaviors are used to keep viewers looking, Jang has deliberately pared the pictures back to cutouts and empty silhouettes, making the contours of gesture (and their implications of objectification) her central subject.

Each of Jang’s works is constructed via two layers of physical cutouts, the resulting pair set against a pastel-hued gradient backdrop and rephotographed. The source image of a Japanese woman is first turned into a white paper form (sometimes filled with soft diffusing color), where the placement of the arms, legs, and head becomes an arrangement of simple shapes and curves. At the same time, a realistic cutout of the model’s black hair is also made and physically integrated with the larger silhouette. The combined effect is full of contrast – the model is made entirely anonymous by the whitewashing, but she still has her own hair, forcing us to retain a sense that this is a real person, not an illustration or animation.

When reduced to the simplicity of a pose, Jang’s women are compressed into stylized feminine types and stand-ins for submissive attitudes. Each position is meant to seduce, from welcoming casualness and arms raised languor to open legged playfulness to tied up restraint. The candy colored fills give the images a deceptively innocent mood, somewhat in conflict with the gestures being offered, and this muted exhibitionism is further enhanced by the installation of the works against vibrant pink walls and surrounded by pink carpet, all set in the front facing store windows of the gallery. It’s clear we are supposed to look, but Jang is intentionally frustrating our ability to see anything but outlines and implications.

She takes this reductionism a step further with the single sculpture in the show. Butter turns a female form into a stacked group of oval shapes, not unlike the forms in a preliminary figure drawing. But this work moves beyond our ability to see it as a body, crossing into the world of abstraction, the gesture broken down into an aggregation of shapes.

Many Lower East Side galleries struggle with how to use their legacy storefront windows to effectively display art, but this installation of Jang’s works inside the commercial bluntness of the windows makes for a thoughtfully appropriate exhibit. Jang is using photography to conceptually unravel the complex elements of female display, so to place her brash results out on view on the sidewalk is elegantly provocative.

Collector’s POV: The photographs in this show are priced at either $3000 or $5000, based on size. Jang’s work has no secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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JTF (just the facts): Published in 2024 by Poursuite Editions (here). Softcover, 21 x 29 cm, 144 pages, with 107 black-and-white and color reproductions. Includes an essay by Clément Ghys ... Read on.

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