A cut-out of the iconic phrase, “Want fries with that?” is the first of many cultural moments you’ll see in a new light at Civic, a recent exhibit from a fourth-year BFA student.
Civic is a multi-canvas collection by Janghan Hong in Union Gallery’s Project Room.
Sprawling across three adjacent walls, Civic is a collection of cultural references and recognizable headlines mounted on painted canvases that are reminiscent of specimen slides seen through a microscope.
The collection at first appears arbitrary — a pastiche of newspaper clippings and cut-out phrases. But the ambiguity is what keeps you re-reading and reviewing each canvas, both individually and as a whole.
It’s easy to spend half an hour getting up close with each image, moving back and forth from canvas to canvas. Many of the images are easily recognized and others transfix you with bracing uncertainty. Hong’s references range from Barack Obama to Graham Beverly, the founder of the Queen’s Socialist Club.
He takes familiar images and renders them open to fresh interpretation, making viewer engagement as much a part of the exhibit’s meaning as the artist’s work.
Hong does a commendable job of injecting artistic value in a collection that relies heavily on secondary images.
Illustrations are painted over the newspaper collage, providing yet another layer of meaning and another level of complication to journalism and its claims of objectivity. Overlaying newspaper content with illustrations creates a tension between message and medium that is at the core of Hong’s work.
Civic stands out amongst the other work at Union Gallery for its use of contemporary images, proving an inviting familiarity that lacks in the other works.
Civic is at Union Gallery’s Project Room until Feb. 14.
Janghan Hong, BFA ’12, is the editorial illustrator at the Journal.
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