Unwoven Light, 2013, Photo: Nash Baker © nashbaker.com

Soo Sunny Park
Unwoven Light
11 April - 30 August 2013

Soo Sunny Park’s installation Unwoven Light animates Rice Gallery’s expansive space, transforming it into a shimmering world of light, shadow, and brilliant color. Suspended from the walls and ceiling, thirty-seven individually sculpted units are arranged as a graceful, twisting flow of abstract form. Entering the gallery there is no set path to follow. Instead, we are invited to meander slowly as one might stroll along a river’s edge, stopping to admire the glints of light that dance on the water’s surface.

Unwoven Light continues Park’s ongoing experimentation with the ephemeral qualities of light and how light affects our perceptions of architectural space. She began thinking about her installation by making a site visit to the gallery in July 2012, to experience the built and the natural elements of the space: its proportions and surfaces, and in particular its lighting conditions. Though immaterial, light is a critical structural element in each of Park’s works. Here she has utilized both the gallery’s lighting and the natural light that enters through the front glass wall. Park notes, “We don’t notice light when looking so much as we notice the things light allows us to see. Unwoven Light captures light and causes it to reveal itself, through colorful reflections and refractions on the installation’s surfaces and on the gallery floor and walls.”

Seeing a Styrofoam cup stuck on a fence one day got Park thinking about the chain link’s properties of being both rigid and porous, of acting as a boundary while retaining an appearance of openness. She shapes each section of chain link by holding it in tension, bending it, and then welding each corner to hold the form in place. The shaped unit becomes a building component that she may use more than once, recycling it into new installations. For Unwoven Light, Park used twenty sculptural units from a previous installation and built seventeen new ones. Working long days with two assistants in her New Hampshire studio, it took Park two weeks to complete one unit. Each required seven hours of welding to brace the fencing, one-hundred hours of tying the wire that holds each Plexiglas piece in place, and many more hours of cutting Plexiglas shapes to fit the chain link cells.

The structure of chain link fencing is similar to the grid of fibers arranged horizontally and vertically on a weaving loom. However, Park uses the grid structure as a means to “unweave.” Wired into each open cell of the chain link is a cut-out shape of iridescent Plexiglas. Iridescence in nature is seen in the sheen of peacock feathers, fish scales, and butterfly wings, appearing as a myriad of colors that appear to change with the angle at which they are viewed. Here the iridescent properties of the coated Plexiglas serve to unweave light, each shape turning from clear to colorful in light’s presence. Explains Park, “Like a net, the sculpture is a filter that is meant to capture the light that is already there and force it to reveal itself. Now we can see it, the light, in purple shadows and yellow-green reflections that both mirror the shape of the fence and restructure the space they inhabit.”

Each visitor’s experience of Unwoven Light will be unique, depending upon the time of day, ratio of natural to artificial light, precise angle of viewing, and even the number of people in the gallery. It is possible for two people to stand next to one another and each have a completely different experience of the dynamic presence of light.

We thank Rice University Art Gallery intern Greta Shwachman (Rice ‘15) for interviewing the artist and writing the first draft of this text.

ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Soo Sunny Park received her BFA in painting and sculpture from Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, Ohio and a MFA in sculpture from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Park is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant; Grand Prize winner of the 19th Annual Michigan Fine Arts Competition; The Helen Foster Barnett Prize, National Academy Museum, New York; Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture residency, Skowhegan, Maine; Cité Internationale des Arts studio residency, Paris, France, and the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Arts & Literary Arts Residency, Bellagio, Italy. Her most recent installations are Capturing Resonance (2011-12)*, created with composer Spencer Topel for the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and SSVT (South Stafford, Vermont) Vapor Slide (2013/2007) at Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Soo Sunny Park lives and works in Hanover, New Hampshire where she is Associate Professor of Studio Art at Dartmouth College.

*Materials from Capturing Resonance have been incorporated into Unwoven Light. Rice Gallery thanks Lexi Lee Sullivan, Assistant Curator and deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.