JAE HWA YOO

NEWLY FORMAL

One of the readiest characteristics of Jae Hwa Yoo’s art has been its rugged informality. She has covered canvases with marks, scuffs, small notations, and other visual (and occasionally actual) detritus and then, in her large works at least, has hung them up unstretched or even plopped them down on the floor like worn, abandoned blankets. For the series she recently showed at LA Artcore Union Center, however, Yoo has ordered her painted objects into something that might seem superficially more conventional, but in actuality is as radical as any of her previous work. It just happens to be radical in an evidently structured way, exactingly formal and minimizing (without suppressing) the effects of chance.

One can regard these newer paintings of Yoo’s, tidily stretched and framed and with their markings clearly describing the motif of a square within a square within a square, as homage – direct in certain cases, indirect in others – to her sources and her forebears. She obliquely acknowledges minimalists and proto-minimalists such as Josef Albers, Sol LeWitt, and, most of all, Agnes Martin. She also recaptures the luminosity of light-and-space art in these pale, glistening canvases. But first and foremost, Yoo revisits the highly ordered minimalist method(s) of the Dansaekhwa painters. This important group of Korean minimalists, active as a group from the late 1960s until the early ‘80s (and as individuals since), has lately been coming to the attention of the West, with several important documentary and solo shows clarifying their historical significance. Yoo was influenced by Dansaekhwa before coming to Los Angeles, and with these paintings she recapitulates their reductive approach to painting and honors their retention of the traditional painterly plane – almost as a way of reclaiming the movement’s spirit for herself, however briefly and distantly, before it is engulfed in a global art history.

It would be unlike Yoo, however, to base a series of work entirely, or even predominantly, on such art-historical self-consciousness. She has produced these solemn, expansive paintings not simply to acknowledge the trajectory of minimalism, but to re-explore how its methods, at once rigid and self-effacing, can reveal a different facet of her own ongoing practice. Even as these new works seemingly deny Yoo’s tenet of informality, they reify, even amplify, her tenet of near-invisibility. As all her work does, this work treasures the mark as texture, as color, as location, and as rhythm, mapping a world of tiny events across a visual field. Only this time, the visual field faces us rather than fades from us.
Peter Frank                                                New York                                                June 2016   

Michael Flechtner

Written by:  Sheila Yusay

As a child, Michael Flechtner was always drawn to colored light.  He was fascinated by Christmas lights, stained glass windows of churches and stared at the large neon signs of the Midwest, where he grew up. 

It seems inevitable then that Michael would set out to learn the techniques of glass bending right after Art school, where he finished with a Masters Degree in Sculpture and Painting.  

It’s been 32 years, since Michael began drawing images that he transforms into sculptural renditions using glass and colored light -- a fragile medium that implores absolute focus.  “The process of heating glass becomes a meditative work, almost a Zen activity, where your only focus can be on the glass”, he says.  This highly technical art requires serious skill not only with shaping glass, but also knowledge of electrical components along with rare properties of gas – or, as Michael adds, “things can result to chaos”.

Yet his work, spanning from 1993-2015, radiates with playfulness and affection, very unlike neon’s sometimes-seedy reputation.  The piece entitled “Clifford”, features a three-dimensional neon animation of a dog on four wheels that one can actually pull by its cord.  Such whimsical motifs are what Michael hopes would elicit joy in the viewer.  “Neon can be glaring and obnoxious at first glance,” he explains, “and I try to be playful with it to invite you in”.

With this intent to cast humor into his creations, Michael juxtaposes his visual art with word play, a concept that results in light-hearted, alluring neon symbols and characters.  “Humor has always been a part of how I process -- how I live”, he says, “It helps diffuse any bad feeling I might have. When people discover the humor in my work, it becomes a cathartic process”.

Flashes of inspiration come as “seeds”, derived from societal icons and the seemingly ordinary learned experiences.  The piece called “ A Real M.F.” was borne out of a custom that tells us not to speak with our mouths full.  Ideas for the piece break out intuitively, one thought rolling to the next, like a stream of consciousness, flowing and boundless.  The sleepy monkey, with radioactive irises, eating a turkey drumstick, all appear like random, conflicting minutiae.

“It’s that sort of ambiguity that lets you interpose your own interpretation on the work”, Michael says of his subjects.   

It is within that ambiguous world of glowing tubes where Michael’s genius lies:  mingling image, humor and wit, with the delicacy of technique that is neon art.


Michael Flechtner lives and works in Van Nuys, California.  

In 2010, Michael was commissioned to design a postage stamp for the USPS known as the Celebrate! stamp.  

His public works can be seen in Tokyo, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.