Harper’s is pleased to announce Whisper Temptations in My Ear, Hyegyeong Choi’s first solo exhibition with the gallery, featuring twelve new paintings by the Brooklyn-based artist. The exhibition opens on Saturday, May 14th, 5–8pm, with a reception attended by the artist.
In Whisper Temptations in My Ear, Choi seduces the viewer with an invitation to indulge in her fantasies. Marked by her keen use of color, Choi’s chimerical scenes depict anthropomorphic figures in varying degrees of stretched, twisted, and morphed forms. Vaguely feminine, Choi’s characters are nearly all nude, with the occasional hint of a garment that is rendered useless or merely decorative due to its transparency. The exposed bodies reveal dysmorphic breasts and viscous drips of flesh upon bulbous folds that shift the figure between object and sentient being; an elongated breast becomes a sushi platter in Tuna Flight at Chemistry Room (Feat. Jiwoo), a protruding belly becomes a breakfast tray in Dance Along the Reeds and in Ate the Pac-Man Game, a figure melts into an arcade machine replete with buttons, knobs, and appendages.
In their vulnerability, Choi’s figures display the futility of censorship and oppressive stereotyping—joyful, inquisitive, and proud, her naked figures interact with their otherworldly surroundings possessed with a sense of agency. Defying restrictions commonly placed on the bodies of women, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC individuals, Ritual Ceremony of Aspen Fairies captures six of Choi’s genderless figures embracing their sexuality in a writhing performance. Coiffed hair and dramatic makeup rendered effortlessly with gradient brushstrokes evoke a sense of costume and ritual, hinting at a darker undertone that echoes Choi’s own experiences of feeling othered because of the face, skin, and body she occupies.
Drawing from her sculptural practice that focuses on critical discourse surrounding weight and body image, Choi’s paintings emphasize their materiality with the use of sculptural paint appliques. At times, her impasto marks bridge the picture plane with the three-dimensional realm, as in Getaway 2.0, in which two figures stare curiously at the viewer through a portal that appears to splash outward with sumptuous heaps of paint. In other applications, they blur the line between the subject’s bodies and Choi’s fantastical world, such as in Garden of Chemistry Room, where immaculate apples grow abundantly in a dual-chromatic Eden. Bodies and fruits alike lay strewn about, suggesting either a leisurely paradise or a sinister limbo. The ornate garden scape portrays a central figure wrapped around a fountain, gazing at the sky, mouth wide open and ready to imbibe the flesh-toned juices that overflow and drip upon their legs. In the foreground, another figure hungrily leans in toward the alluring fruit that may or may not be forbidden. In these ambivalent moments, Choi seems to gently encourage the viewer—go ahead, take a bite.
Hyegyeong Choi (b. 1986, Seoul, South Korea) received BFA from Chung Ang University, Seoul, and an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. Choi’s work has been the subject of solo presentations at Shelter Gallery, New York (2021); Slow Gallery, Chicago (2020); Stolbun Collection, New York and Chicago (2018 and 2015). Most recently, she has participated in group exhibitions at CHART, New York (2021); Harper’s, Los Angeles, and East Hampton (2021); Anton Kern, New York (2021); and Adah Rose, Washington, D.C. (2019). Reviews of her work have appeared in Artforum, New York Times, and Hyperallergic, among other publications. Choi lives and works in Brooklyn.