Internationally acclaimed artist Haegue Yang presents first North American survey exhibition at the AGO

Major exhibition opening this spring to include new commissions

TORONTO — A leading artist of her generation, Haegue Yang (b. 1971, Seoul) is celebrated for her prolific and diverse work that evokes historical and contemporary narratives of migration, displacement and cross-cultural translation. Haegue Yang: Emergence, the first North American survey of the artist’s oeuvre, will open at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on April 30, 2020. 

Yang is primarily known for her extraordinary transformations of everyday domestic materials—such as venetian blinds, light bulbs, drying racks, knitting yarn and bells—into deeply allegorical, meticulously constructed installations and sculptures. Over 70 of the artist’s critically acclaimed installations, performative sculptures and graphic murals from the past 25 years will be included in the exhibition that will occupy Level 5 of the Vivian and David Campbell Centre for Contemporary Art, as well as other spaces in the museum.

Haegue Yang: Emergence is curated by Adelina Vlas, the AGO’s Associate Curator of Contemporary Art. “The exhibition explores the scientific notion of emergence in reference to the existence or formation of collective behaviours–what a community can accomplish that individuals cannot alone,” says Vlas. “This concept suggests the possibility of transformation through coming together, a concept highly relevant in today’s fractured societies. When applied to the context of a survey show, emergence points to a unified reading of the artist’s extraordinarily diverse practice over two decades.”

The AGO has commissioned two new installations for the exhibition: a large-scale venetian blind work in the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Sculpture Atrium and a mural-like wallpaper at the AGO’s South Entrance. An outsider searching for her own possible reading of the AGO’s Collections, Yang’s choice of the AGO Atrium as a site for a new work is inspired by the evidence of multiple layers of architectural history.

Movement is a primary motif of Haegue Yang: Emergence and stems from Yang’s preoccupations with physical, social and emotional movement informed by her own diasporic experience. The sensorial richness of individual lived experience also provides the point of departure for her works in which intangible elements (light, sound, air, heat and scent) are combined with moving components to stimulate our multiple senses. It is this porous and fragmentary aspect of Yang’s practice that allows for an idea of community to emerge, one that is inclusive of interpersonal differences and individuals’ own movement through the world. According to the artist, “Acknowledging the absence of commonness among us could be the very tie that bonds us. This can provide a ground for our differences to co-exist.”

Haegue Yang: Emergence includes a full spectrum of the artist’s installations, sculptures and two-dimensional works. Among them is the reconstruction of the Anthology of Haegue Archives (1998), the artist’s attempt at self-historicization through the presentation of a group of early works in a museological display case.  Also included is the groundbreaking series of sculptures Non-Indépliables (2006-2010) where drying racks wrapped in fabric, yarn and light fixtures take on anthropomorphic qualities. Yang’s interests in domestic spaces as sites of reflection and planning of life are fully manifested in Sallim (2009), a critically acclaimed sculptural environment based on the artist’s Berlin kitchen at the time. The selection also includes Boxing Ballet (2013-2015), a theatrical staging of human-sized figures covered in brass bells. Their engagement with the gallery space as a box informs its title while challenging museum display conventions. Yang’s interest in movement is further emphasized in the series Sol LeWitt Vehicles (2018),  and these moveable sculptures on casters will be activated throughout the run of the exhibition. They will be presented against the wall mural Eclectic Totemic (2013), which references the diversity of sources and influences that have shaped Yang’s work.

The exhibition is accompanied by a parallel presentation of Yang’s video essays on the 4th floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower, and a one-time staging of The Malady of Death (2008-ongoing), a conceptual commitment of the artist to the identically titled novella by Marguerite Duras in Jackman Hall in late September (exact dates to be announced shortly).

A hardcover catalogue will be published for the exhibition, featuring contributions by Lynne Cooke, senior curator at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Jee-sook Beck, director of SeMA and curator of the 2016 edition of the SeMA Biennale Mediacity Seoul; and AGO exhibition curator, Adelina Vlas. Titled Haegue Yang: Emergence the catalogue is co-published by Prestel and the AGO and will be available in early summer, including at the shopAGO.

Admission to the exhibition is included with an AGO Membership or Annual Pass, and is free for visitors 25 and under.

Haegue Yang: Emergence includes a reconstruction of the Anthology of Haegue Archives, a selection of early works from 1994 to 1998. Presented in this format for the first time since 1998, Anthology of Haegue Archives becomes an exploration of self-historicization employing sentimentality, humour and irony and uses a display case as a museological convention.

Made in the scale and shape of Yang’s Berlin kitchen at that time, Sallim (2009) explores a notion of space that is private, yet serves as a kind of public engagement. In Korean, the word ‘sallim’ simply translates to ‘running of a household,’ yet it means more than that literal term. The kitchen is historically perceived as the representative location of women’s work, and Yang’s engagement with ideas of domesticity highlights its status as a central and vital space for life’s preparation and maintenance. For Yang, it is also a sensorial space, where things are heated, scents are produced, steam and moisture gather, and water runs as life is planned and organized.

Transforming the gallery space into a stage, Boxing Ballet (2013-2015) references Oskar Schlemmer’s historic Triadic Ballet (1922). Six anthropomorphic sculptures covered in brass-plated bells are activated by performers in the exhibition space and make reference to Bauhaus and Western art history.

Similarly, the large-scale graphic wallpaper Eclectic Totemic (2013)  incorporates in its visual motifs various historical figures, bringing to the fore Yang’s use of historic influences, sources and references. Drawing on the legacies of choreographed geometry and geometric progression, Sol LeWitt Vehicles (2018) are constructed with aluminum frames on casters and white venetian blinds. In Sol LeWitt Vehicles, Yang continues her investigations into the rigorous and mesmerizing cube permutations of minimalist artist Sol LeWitt’s Modular Structures. Unlike previous works in the artist’s Vehicles series, Sol LeWitt Vehicles are made to be performed by handles placed on the outside, rather than on the inside of the sculptural form.  The sculptures thereby require multiple participants to move in concert with each other, emphasizing the idea of collective performativity.

Haegue Yang lives and works in Berlin, Germany and Seoul, South Korea. She is a Professor at the Staedelschule in Frankfurt am Main. For the opening of the expanded building of The Museum of Modern Art, New York on October 21, 2019, MoMA commissioned Yang to create an installation for the Marron Atrium. Handles has been highly praised for its performative power to render and weave seemingly irrelevant historical narratives into a singular immersive, mesmerizing and performative field.

Yang has participated in major international exhibitions including the 16th Istanbul Biennial (2019), the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018), La Biennale de Montréal (2016), the 12th Sharjah Biennial (2015), the 9th Taipei Biennial (2014), dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel (2012) and the 53rd Venice Biennale (2009) as the South Korean representative as well as in the International Art Exhibition at the Arsenale.

Yang’s work is included in permanent collections such as the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA; M+, Hong Kong, China; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA; Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA.

Her work has been the subject of numerous monographs, such as Haegue Yang: Anthology 2006–2018. Tightrope Walking and Its Wordless Shadow (2019); Haegue Yang: ETA 1994–2018 (2018); Haegue Yang: VIP’s Union (2017); and Haegue Yang: Family of Equivocations (2013).

@AGOToronto | #HaegueYangAGO  

Haegue Yang: Emergence is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The exhibition is generously supported by:

Presenting Partner

Max Mara

Lead Support
Women’s Art Initiative

Generous Support
The Korea Foundation

The AGO acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Located in Toronto, Canada’s largest city of 5.9 million, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is one of the largest art museums in North America. The AGO Collection of close to 95,000 works ranges from cutting-edge contemporary art to significant works by Indigenous and Canadian artists and European masterpieces. The AGO presents wide-ranging exhibitions and programs, taking special care to showcase diverse and underrepresented artists. Its 585,000 square foot building was most recently expanded in 2008 by Frank Gehry, and attracts approximately one million visits per year. A new admission model launched in May, 2019 offers all visitors 25 and under free, unlimited admission; a $35 Annual Pass includes entry for an entire year. Visit to learn more.

The AGO is funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. Additional operating support is received from the City of Toronto, the Canada Council for the Arts and generous contributions from AGO Members, donors and private-sector partners.

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For hi-res images and other press inquiries, please contact:

Andrea-Jo Wilson; Manager, Public Relations | AGO
416-979-6660, ext. 6403, [email protected]

Shawna Schmitz; Director of Communications | Max Mara
212-536-6290, [email protected] 

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