Modern Art Oxford presents Teacher of Dance, the first major UK exhibition of the Seoul- and Berlin-based artist Haegue Yang. Yang has developed a distinctive practice of colourful and sensorial installations and sculptures that seek to occupy the spaces where public and private meet and contend with one another. Through her work, Yang discloses narratives, individual portraits and her own sentiments, reflecting the balance of research and intuitive enquiry that underlies her practice. She predominantly uses materials drawn from the domestic realm, yet employs an abstract language to free the work from any narratives that influenced her production process.
The exhibition, whose title references the spiritualist thinker and teacher G. I. Gurdjieff, is guided by an interest in movement and the role it plays in the formation and experience of Yang’s work. It includes not only major past works but also newly conceived pieces. Commissioned to produce a new work for the Piper Gallery, Yang has created a Venetian blind installation - a form she has rigorously pursued for the past six years - that for the first time escapes eye level, representing a departure from what has been a defining characteristic of these installations. The work is formed of two distinct parts that visitors can move underneath and within: the first conceptually transforms the artist’s relationship to the Venetian blind, from a semi-transparent material that is looked through, to an object that is to be looked at; the second, referencing the stereometric costumes of Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadisches Ballett (1922), comprises floor-based structures that can be entered into and moved around.
The breadth of Yang’s practice is revealed through work in a variety of media from the past decade of her practice, with individual works often forming a constituent part of a family of objects. Occupying the Upper Gallery is a group of vibrantly coloured and highly textured sculptures entitled Non-Indépliables, (Non-Unfoldables), 2006/2009-11. These works, drying racks wrapped in fabric and knitted material, deftly transform a functional and intrinsically foldable household item into a strongly figurative yet fixed sculpture. The series Light House (ongoing since 2008) consists of intricately folded cardboard sculptures fashioned out of light bulb boxes, revealing the interiors of these former houses for bulbs. The series Manteuffelstrasse 112 (2010-2011) is a group of wall- mounted metal sculptures containing lights and colourful Venetian blinds, which replicate in size and shape the boiler and every radiator in Yang’s former flat in Berlin. A new series of Can Cosies (ongoing since 2010), wholesale sized food cans clothed in knitted covers, touches on the contrast between familiarity and alienation in our food culture.
To coincide with the exhibition, Modern Art Oxford is producing a fully illustrated catalogue in collaboration with the Aspen Art Museum, Colorado, focusing on Yang’s exhibitions at the two institutions. The catalogue contains two major essays by Professor Julian Stallabrass, Reader at the Courtauld Institute, and Professor Anne Wagner, The Henry Moore Foundation Research Curator at Tate. It also contains a text by Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, Director and Chief Curator, Aspen Art Museum, an interview with Haegue Yang by Emily Smith, Curator, Modern Art Oxford, and a biographical text by Katharina Schwerendt. The book has been developed in a close collaboration between the designer Manuel Raeder and Haegue Yang.