Robin Kang - First Place, ArtSlant Prize 2013
Robin Kang interrogates machinery. From her roots as a photographer (BFA) and through her MFA in printmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, it’s always been about how the machine affects the artwork produced and what exactly can be done within that process of translation: idea to object. Her latest projects involve two very different explorations. Using digital jacquard looms, she recreates patterns taken both from ancient weaving cultures as well as the silicon culture of microprocessors, all the while interrupting and reinterpreting through the loom. Her concurrent project, BRXL Blocks, is an interrogation of architectural space through the use of very lightweight, transparent bricks made of PET plastic. These piecemeal constructors are farmed out to agencies of production in China.
Kang’s BRXL Block installations leverage our relationship to the architectural. Installed, they take many forms: towers, walls, even extensions to preexisting architectural features. They sway as gallery-goers pass, so fragile and ethereal are they. When she began this project, Kang says she was coming from a place of industrial critique, a critique of the loss of craft. However, as she came to hold and play with these objects, she found they evoked another theme. “This other element of the object itself came up during installation…I placed myself in this child-like place, just playing with blocks again… The fact that people respond to that and have a desire to play with these objects is exciting for me.” One high-profile playmate is the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, who has one of Kang’s blocks in his office and has been known to toss it to visitors, enjoying the surprise on their faces as they exert themselves to catch what appears to be a glass brick.