Artist: Jenny Cho
Exhibition: INPROCESS (Shared exhibit with Andrea Guiterrez and Caitlin Morris)
Media: mixed media, nylon, wood panel, silk flowers, lipstick, acrylic, electrical wire, metal, succulent plants, moss, circuit board, synthetic hair, artist’s hair, watercolor paper, electrical diodes, gouache, ink, Bristol paper, sawdust, glass jars, glass bottle, sketchbook, paintbrush, plywood, felt, silver wire, Barbie doll head, Barbie doll shoes, 1960s-70s Playboy imagery, mirror, glitter, thread
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Marilyn Werby Gallery
Jenny Cho, an inspiring female and innovative artist in this week’s SOA Galleries, is in the process of completing her last semester towards her BFA degree in the School of Art’s Drawing and Painting Program. Cho’s passion and spirit shine when she discusses her work and her inspiration behind them. She is an artist that believes, “art is better when it sits in ambiguity”. She goes the extra step just to make something stranger, forcing the viewers to ask, “why?”. She spends a lot of time working and reworking pieces. She allows the piece to spend time under critique, then goes back and reworks the piece until it finally “fits”. Just because something sits here seemingly complete today doesn’t necessarily indicate the piece has seen its end in life. The pieces are constantly under construction by Cho, transforming as her interpretation of them transforms.
The media Cho uses is quite varied with each piece telling a different story. The work flows from one piece to the next just as the motivation behind the work. As Cho describes, the story of her work transitions from “gender identity to femininity to culture to craft to pseudo-Buddhism”. Cho begins the works with, Can you see Him?, a piece made with mixed media and nylon on a wood panel. All that’s immediately visible to the eye is the nylon, wrapped horizontally and loosely around the wood panel and mixed media itself, showing stability. The nylon is dull and skin toned – fading from light to dark down the pane. If you approach the piece, however, you see the subordinate details that oppose the dull nylon. Underneath lies a vibrant world of blues, yellows, pinks, purples. Cho had the brilliant idea to take popular fairy tale quotes and change every female pronoun to a male pronoun. The other media pieces (cut outs of characters ans scenes) are asymmetrically and randomly placed – showing instability. Much like how a male who connects with such female stories as a child would feel.
As the work flows into femininity, Cho takes a alternate yet personal approach to project her idea of feminism. The pieces, titled Standing Diagonal, Never Judge a Boob by its Cover, and Hello and Goodbye (Part II), when put together represent Cho herself. In Standing Diagonal, made of mixed media and lipstick on a wood panel, the lines follow the curves of the wood topped with soft feminine kisses. The piece itself is lustrous – shining with confidence and seduction. Hidden underneath, and only at a certain angle, one can see Cho’s face. This portion of work represents her head. Beneath it, hangs the more dramatic Never Judge a Boob by its Cover. This particular piece has taken on several shapes and intentions since its inception. It is a plaster of her bust and an experiment with a medium. She poured the medium layer by layer until it suited her. In one layer she added succulent plants – a layer of life that now is decaying. And just to be strange, placed the layered bust piece on top of a circuit board on a wood panel and added twirled electrical wire to the top. The lines are jagged and uneven. She sees this as a “strange thing to find way in the future” kind of piece. The final work here, Hello and Goodbye (Part II), made of mixed media on a wood panel with undulating lines inspired by the grain of the wood. The grain is organic and resembles a vagina – Cho’s vagina. Here you see the colors of the rainbow – bold and evocative. The systematically placed synthetic hairs add soft and intimate texture. When viewed as a whole, you see her body – with each piece dynamic and asymmetrical in color and design.
The story transitions into “culture”. The piece, Can You See Us?, was inspired by her grandparents in Korea who recently passed away. The bright charcoal colors boldly applied to the watercolor paper are dominated by the contrasting dark acrylic paint blocks. The lines are asymmetrical and unbalanced with no draw to a particular segment of the piece. Rather, an inclusive perspective embraces the piece as the eye sweeps from left to right. Then, the work transitions into her “craft” where watercolor paper and mixed media was used to weave the image of a lotus flower – open if viewed from one side, and closed if viewed from the other. The colors as soft as a lotus flower, contrasting dark and light to create the imagery.
The final pieces of work in which Cho describes as her “pseudo-Buddhism” pieces, are 3.14, Untitled, and 1981. The cool pastel colors each had a purpose as they filled each pencil etched box. The pattern in 3.14, was fashioned after the the interlocked arrangement of the wood grain. The piece is well balanced, with the natural beauty of the grain highlighted and perfectly coordinated use of colors. In 1981 (not pictured) the concept is mirrored in design yet opposite in color. The colors are bold and vivid with dark blue contrasting with bright orange.
Cho’s art tells a story that she relates to. The work speaks to her on some level, and she says that a part of herself will always be reflected in her work. However, knowing that people who view art come with their own baggage – they tend to forge a connection to the art they see, coming up with their own interpretations. The primary reason for Cho joining in on this exhibit with Andrea Gutierrez and Caitlin Morris was their shared focus on the process, and not the final products. How one step leads to another step. Just like people, the end product is the compilation of many layers of processes and events that make it into what you see today. Cho connected with that. The process of setting up for the show was spontaneous – with a focus on the journey. There was no vision until the end. She works well that way. She did get inspiration from technology, nature, craft that has a voice, and a making a statement about feminism that is bold but not political when spontaneously putting together her works.
As I walked through INPROCESS, my eye was instantly drawn to Cho’s 3.14. I cannot explain why my eye is drawn to cool pastel colors, and this piece was no different in that sense. Not only was I completely awe struck by the detail and patience that I know it takes to create such a systematic piece, but the reflection of something natural in a gallery filled with unnatural pieces stood out in a bold way. But as I looked at the other pieces of work by Cho, they were nothing like this piece. Nothing at all. My perception of a coordinated artist went to a completely spontaneous one. As I spoke with Cho, I understood it so well. I connected with her purpose. As females we wear so many hats. There are many layers that we contribute to the surrounding world, and Cho’s work was very indicative of these layers. Plus her indomitable feminism was inspiring!
Jenny Cho’s work is a must see. Her Instagram is a great source to view her pieces. I recommend one to seek out the opportunity to speak with Jenny Cho herself. She will share her sense of purpose and you will inevitably walk away with a greater understanding of your place in the world.