Ok Hyun Ahn’s exhibition is an extended meditation on emotion, the depiction of emotion, and the emotions elicited by such depictions. Simultaneously disturbing and seductive, her work hovers between reality and artifice, sentimentality and anguish, the simple and the melodramatic. Deploying a subtle interplay between archetypes of disparate segments of culture - grand opera and rock and roll, television soap opera and art cinema - Ahn propels the viewer into a mode of emotional uncertainty and wonderment.
The current show focuses on two bodies of work. Homo Sentimentalis consists of a series of portraits of anonymous people crying in essentially anonymous rooms. In spite of the absence of any overt narrative, an emotional encounter occurs. The title and inspiration for these photographs comes from a text by Milan Kundera:
Homo sentimentalis cannot be defined as a man with feelings
(for we all have feelings), but as a man who has raised feeling
to a category of value. As soon as feelings are seen as a value,
everyone wants to feel; and because we all like to pride ourselves
on our values, we have a tendency to show off our feelings.
Two videos comprise the second section of this exhibition, each drawing its name from Italian musicology. The earlier work, Ma Non Troppo, dates from 2011; Una Furtive Lagrima was created in 2012. In both of them, the artist exploits the trope of lip-synching to deepen her exploration of the ways in which portrayed emotion engenders emotional reactions, even when the spectator is provoked into an awareness of the seeming artificiality of the unfolding narrative. Transgressive in terms of racial, cultural and gender identity, they shock and entice in the same moment.
Ok Hyun Ahn was born in Korea, and currently divides her time between Seoul and New York. She holds MFA degrees from both Hongik University, Seoul, Korea, and the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY.
This exhibition has been curated and designed by Michael Steinberg.