Robin Kang with inspiration materials in her studio.
Born in Kerrville, Texas, Robin Kang has developed an artistic trajectory that honors her southwestern roots and ventures boldly into the future. My relationship with Robin goes back to 2008, and her practice has developed significantly since then. Over the last several years Robin has participated in artist residencies such as AIR Projects – Beijing, and at Ox-Bow. She has organized art events in Texas, Florida, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and in her Chicago apartment gallery project, Carousel Space. Her current practice, based in NY, encompasses sculptural brick-laying, stacking plywood, electronic forms, and a practice of weaving. In effect, her art transcends the culturally gendered nature of many forms of work.
Brick installation with woven geometric blanket in the artist’s studio.
Robin has been drawing and making collages for as long as she can remember. She recounts: “Grandmother was interested in painting, and Grandfather photographed wildflowers in Texas, he had a lot of darkroom equipment and I eventually inherited his camera.” She took the camera with her to study photography at Texas Tech University, where she soon found an interest in digital photography under the instruction of Robin Dru Germany. From there she went on to study classical painting at the 17th St. Atelier, (legacy of Karelyn Siegler, Michael Aviano, and Jacob Collins, New York City). Recently, Kang received her degree in Print Media at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While in graduate school she found herself taking courses in the New Media and Fiber departments as well as Printmedia.
Brick installation, woven graphic, and woven polymer lightbox in the artist’s studio.
When asked about her earliest artistic influences, Robin attributes her first absorption in the arts to passionate public school art teachers that took an interest in her at a young age, and encouraged her to develop creatively beyond the set curriculum. Kang shared with me that as a child she was exposed to works of art at the McNay Art Museum with its large collection of Southwestern and New Mexico art, as well as 20th century European and American painting. The McNay collection included artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as the cubists, of whose works Kang says: “Looking at those structures was kind of formative, too. It’s weird to think about how that early exposure could effect what I’m currently interested in.” Weird because her aesthetic designs have much to do with structure, re-composition, and craft, much like the systematic abstractions of the cubist painters.
When asked about current artistic influences Kang lists, “fiber artists such as Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, and Anni Albers have been of recent influence. I find the connection with math, structure, and the organic physicality particularly interesting. I’ve also been looking a lot at Op Art. I recently purchased a book of collected writings from Bridget Riley. I find her work really relative to the interfaces we have come to be so familiar with in a digital culture. – I am really into thinking about how to translate that right now.” More personal influences would include several faculty from SAIC. Christy Matson‘s instruction of the complex world of weaving techniques utilizing both traditional floor looms and digital jacquard looms has helped me to materialize concepts that were already at play in imagery that I was creating. Two other female instructors whose work I strongly admire are Anne Wilson and Michelle Grabner. Additionally, the video artist Irina Botea helped spark an interest for me in working with video.
Within electronic and new media arts, she mentioned the couple, LoVid (Tali Hinkis and Kyle Lapidus), stating that, “I love how their collaborations bounce back and forth between new media and craft.” Likewise, she admires the work that Rosa Menkman has been doing to add theory to the Glitch movement.
Kang’s work has begun to merge her knowledge of glitch and technological/new media arts with more ancient traditions and of southwestern native and global forms of indigenous craft. Though she would love to get her hands on a large scale loom of her own, graphically, her work references network systems, chips, bits, and hijacked video. Now that her Master’s degree is completed, she is in high-production mode, “Now is really the time to push and make and make,” she told me during the studio visit.
A new exhibition of her work titled “Woven/Bits” opens this Tuesday, May 7th, at First Things. The gallery is located at 35 East 21st Street, Sixth Floor (between Broadway and Park) New York City. If you would like to join her for the 6 pm reception – space is limited, so please RSVP here or by phone at: (212) 627-1985. A formal introduction to the exhibition will begin at 6:30pm.