“It was an exciting process, a different kind of show for us,” says Jason Franz, director of East Walnut Hills’ Manifest Gallery, about its unusual, new single-object exhibit.
It is “Episteme” by South Korean-born Yun Jeong Hong, who recently received her master's degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It has won the first Manifest Prize and thus is being presented in a singular show called One: The Manifest Prize now through Feb. 18.
The nonprofit Manifest has instituted this prize, anticipated as an annual event, partly as a way to pay an artist for exhibiting. Hong receives 10 percent of the entry fees, in this case $400. This new venture will further enhance Manifest's national and international reputation, Franz says, and collaterally benefit Cincinnati's visual arts. If sponsorship support increases, Manifest would hope to extend payment to all artists exhibiting there. (Right now, some other specific projects include cash prizes and all artists in all shows receive copies of the exhibition catalogs.)
The Internet call for entries elicited submissions of 400 works by 204 artists from 39 states and 17 countries. For One, 13 jurors (who remain anonymous but are professors, curators, artists or others knowledgeable in visual arts) individually reviewed slides of each submitted work in a three-level process that winnowed entries to a final, single selection.
“Episteme” plays with the philosophical concept of French philosopher Michel Foucault's use of the term, showing us something that almost is what it seems to be but in fact is a maze of suggestions.
The artist has constructed a stairway of sorts, rising by about a dozen steps within the small room Manifest calls its Parallel Space Gallery. The spindly construction curves upward, incorporating slim sticks as suggestions of a railing and an actual, discarded handrail standing straight up in the turn. On the plywood surface of some steps are clear pools of resin, hardened but suggesting water and the attendant dangers of slipping on wet surfaces. It's an unsettling piece, an ordinary element of our lives made unusual and distracting, depicted as fragile instead of sturdy. In her artist's statement, Hong says: “As an unfolding moment, the staircase is the memory of body experience.”
The gallery has compiled juror statements to appear in the gallery and in the catalog. One juror wrote of the “common architectural element … reinterpreted and deconstructed,” and another referred to its “calling on a language of disuse and abandon.” A mention is made of Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending the Staircase” — a reference that also surfaces in the artist's statement — and also of Frank Lloyd Wright's design for the Pennsylvanian home known as Fallingwater.
The visitor might find other ties but, while art history is interesting, a work's impact needs to come from within itself. “Episteme” has that quality for me, as indeed it has for the jurors.
Hong has been the graduate student of Stephen Cartwright, whose elegantly amusing “Topologic Generator” and other works appeared in the Parallel Space Gallery last year. Hong says Cartwright did not specifically suggest Manifest to her. Although she came from South Korea in 2007 to study painting at UIUC, Cartwright's classes turned her to sculpture.
“He let me open my eyes for thinking through material,” she says in an e-mail. Hong's father, in fact, is a sculptor and conceptual artist in South Korea. The young sculptor, who chose study in the U.S. over European schools, will be in Spain this spring for an artist residency.
Tapped, in Manifest's front gallery, is filled with pairs of works, the result of another interesting idea. Why not show together works by professors and their current or former students? Nine professors and nine students (only two of whom are currently in school) are represented. A professor who produces a precise grid of a cityscape in pencil has influenced a student whose work is a drift of lines and color called, accurately, “Drift.” In a reverse of form, an abstract professor's student turns to figurative work. Subtle relationships can be traced, however, as with another pair, one of whom is a sculptor and the other a painter. Respect for materials and elegance of line inform both works.
The Drawing Room, as Manifest calls its second gallery, is showing a solo exhibition of paintings and drawings by Thomasin Dewhurst, The Emergent Body. Women, calm but unsmiling, clothed and unclothed, are portrayed in this series that addresses the inherent physicality of our presence. These are beautiful but not sentimental works. Thomasin, born in England and raised in South Africa, now is an artist and teacher in the San Francisco Bay area.
ONE: THE MANIFEST PRIZE, TAPPED and THE EMERGENT BODY are on view at Manifest Gallery (2727 Woodburn Ave., Walnut Hills) through Feb. 18. Find more details at www.manifestgallery.org or call 513-861-3638. Gallery hours are 2-7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.