...Only to meet nothing that wants you
The exhibition features large-scale cyanotype works depicting under-sea images of coral that have then been bleached with sugar crystals—a material woven throughout Chung’s practice for over a decade in reference to its relationship to colonialism in the Caribbean. The cyanotypes are placed in context with a brass chandelier that recalls designs from the 19th century; where crystals would hang, Chung has hung glass vials filled with sugar in various shades. The exhibition will be on view from Friday September 6th through Saturday October 12th, 2019, with a reception for the artist Friday September 6th from 6 to 9pm.
Chung’s practice often utilizes perishable and precious materials with strong underlying histories, forming relationships to pre-emancipation images of the Caribbean, touristic misrepresentations of people and place, the export or import of goods and materials, and the labor of the human body. Completing the quote by Nayyirah Waheed that Chung used as the title of her first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in 2017, “You broke the ocean in half to be here,” the title of the exhibition at Klowden Mann answers with the second half of the phrase, “…Only to meet nothing that wants you.”
In the cyanotype works, coral bleaching becomes a metaphor for colonialism, and the expanding of the philosophy and impact of imperialism on colonial populations and cultures. The addition of sugar crystals to the already highly sensitive cyanotypes underlines Chung’s interest in creating work that defies the notion of artworks as static objects that are meant to remain unchanging and unyielding in the face of shifting environments and time; in a way that also reflects the constant uncontrolled and irresponsible effects of human actions on the environment, and on vulnerable populations. The works are intended to shift and change over the course of the exhibition, as the sugar embeds further in the cyanotype, falls, and expands. The works are linked to the environment in which they are placed in a way that Chung cannot predict and control—and along with the chandelier, ask the audience to consider who pays for the superficial opulence and beauty to which so many have become accustomed.