David Jang is a conceptual artist all the way. He’s a former chef who has concocts recipes of old, industrial things that are given new meaning in his grand installations www.davidbjang.com. He’s a cool guy with very intriguing work.
MICHAEL: Hey David, Your work seems to be about taking things and creating new lives for them through installations. I love the light installations and foam cup canvas works on your website. What inspires you to create such work?
DAVID: Hi Michael, Rather than creating my work, I believe it is in the act of discovery itself. To create is not to create something new - instead, we discover a new thing that already exists and we create by either recombining those existents or by further parsing them down. Either way, a part is part of a whole and the whole is within each part. Every material carries life's instructions, from how to behave, grow, combine, assemble or proliferate, so does every level of hierarchical existence. In this way, things exist as perfect in their own right. Even an imperfect state it’s perfectly so. I deconstruct, re-program and re-constitute industrial and commercial cast-offs to reveal new relationships between the object and the viewer. It's like metaphysics, the thing itself never expresses anything, but it's about the relationship between you and the thing itself that formulates a thought.
MICHAEL: What I'm hearing you say is that everything has inherent value. Yet we live in a world where everything - including people - are often treated as disposable. Can art really tackle this problem?
DAVID: Yes. Art is different from all other endeavors in this way: Art provides the instant portal to the fourth dimension, where we can bounce up from whatever current level of consciousness we reside to instantly meet another's consciousness. The artist has done the process (the work of thinking through) for us and presents the elements of color, texture, space, time and materials tied into a concrete form that says, 'This is what I think.' And faster than we can think in turn or comprehend, we answer, 'I agree' or 'I don't agree.' My sense of life - what I discover (create) as a result - provides direction for the observer, not only to increase the depth of consciousness, but to highlight what matters. I say this because whereas education was once considered a luxury and privilege, art has taken its place on the pyramid structure of humanity. But while many around the world still spend all their energy struggling at the level of subsistence, I desire to discover art as a necessity to the human condition, not a luxury.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. Tell me about your installation with all of the blowing, electric floor fans. How did that come about?
DAVID: Reality of art lies not only in the visual and tangible world, but also in the realm of the unconscious mind. Original direction for the fan project was to use the fan to create a wind power generator. I usually make extreme experimental approaches to further discover the hidden subtexts and hierarchies these objects uphold. One thing cannot exist without its counterpart. Push and pull (twist and untwist), negative space is force impelled and the subject matter (positive space) is energy fulfilled. Each fan may turn to the same direction but when two fans face each other it becomes its counterpart. This is a characteristic and personality of activated and continuing space.
MICHAEL: Your fluorescent light installations are somewhat reminiscent of Dan Flavin. What's the inspiration there?
DAVID: My fluorescent light installations (lighting wall) are site specific. In the human body we have skin, bone and flesh. My light works have color, space, structure and material (light bulbs are physical surfaces). I was experimenting how materials (light bulbs) can be transformed, respond and relate to the site specific space. I mentioned earlier about push and pull, negative space is force impelled and subject matter (positive space) is energy fulfilled. This is a characteristic and personality of activated and continuing space. My lighting installation is actually commissioned public art work at the Angry Mom's Choice Home Shopping Center on Wilshire Boulevard in LA.
MICHAEL: Very cool. Also, the melted foam cups on canvas. What's that about?
DAVID: I am interested in how materials can be transformed and manipulated into their varied states of solid, liquid or gas - Much like clouds that are easily manipulated by temperature. When you first squeeze out the paint from the paint tube it comes in a thick liquid form. We use paint brushes and knives to cast them onto canvas and it becomes solid form. With most of the materials that we use, aluminum, metal, plastic or glass, we use temperature to bring them down to liquid form and cast them and it becomes solid form. So I view these found materials as paint medium. Instead of using paint medium I used found materials, found objects, mass- produced objects and mass-produced materials. Instead of using paintbrush, I used tools such as a torch, heat gun, grinder or sander and I used these cast-off materials like a mathematical and scientific form originating from the natural world, with a sophisticated, urban, formalist language ... transforming it into a structure with an expressive spatial growth pattern and evoking a nature-industrial-techno continuum.
MICHAEL: How and where do you get your inspiration for these things? Does it come from inside your studio or daily engagement with life?
DAVID: I don't have all the answers, but I understand things through principles. It's like a mathematical formula that you can pretty much apply to anything within everyday life's experience. Whether experiences in my studio or at the gym during exercise or little things that I do, I try to keep my conscious level and awareness open as much as possible. I am not the center of the universe and I am just a small part, so I am anxious and excited to discover what I'll be running into every day and every moment.
MICHAEL: What's the LA art scene like? Shouldn't you be in NYC?
DAVID: LA is like a mixed medium - extreme variety levels and styles with deeper depth of diverse, cultural history. It makes me think of Darwin's theory about two same animal lives in a two different geographical locations and that makes them appear to be two totally different animals. NYC is an exciting place to be. My priority is continuation of art development no matter what the circumstance is. My art development in NYC might be a bit difficult due to not enough of support. I hope to be there when opportunity comes.
MICHAEL: How did you become an artist? Do you come from an artistic family? What does your family think about your career and work?
DAVID: I came to U.S. from South Korea in 1989. I was 14 years old. I couldn't speak any English, so two classes that I was good at were math and art. Of course, these two classes didn't require much English skill. Art was pretty much the only activity that I was involved almost every day, even after school when I came home I would draw and paint on my own. My parents were pretty much at work and didn’t come home until 10-11pm. My father has been professional chef (Korean and Chinese food) all his life. My mother is an extremely hard working person. The only skill I get from my father is cooking. I worked as a professional chef for about two years. I remember during my college years when I was mixing colors with a pallet knife, my instructor told me I mixed colors like chef. LOL. Just like any other middle class family, my family has concerns about me making a living, but at the same time they are proud that I came this far. My family knows that I am determined so they try to be supportive as much as they can.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world and how it functions? Do you feel part of it or alienated by it?
DAVID: More and more people are able to learn and see art especially because of the internet. Boundaries of culture are becoming more influences to each other to unite. However, due to the population increase, everything around us is expected to be mass produced and needs to be convenient. Art is definitely caught up in these circumstances and is becoming functional and like a vehicle for human satisfaction rather than discovery of the principles of nature and the universe. I think it's technological development that’s allowing people to behave impatiently and art isn't doing enough to educate and influence people to be more open-minded with possibilities.
MICHAEL: Finally David, Your work seems to be about as contemporary as art can be right now. What are your hopes for the future and what do you want your work to say to the world?
DAVID: The future holds far more than I can comprehend. The least I can do is be truthful and as committed as I can be to my art practice. It isn't only about what my work can say that matters to the world, but also more about what purpose can it serve.
MICHAEL: Very cool. Thanks David.
DAVID: Thank you very much Michael. It was pleasure to have a conversation with you.
Check out David’s work at www.davidbjang.com.