The Visual Music of Hye Ja Moon(Gallery&Studio-June.July.August 2003)
When twentieth century American abstract. American abstract painters like Arthur Dove and Georgia O'Keeffe set out to capture the rhythm and movement of nature, they employed organic forms, influenced by Cubism, favored by their European peers. Hye Ja Moon, who studied painting at Massachusetts Art College and has exhibited widely in New York and throughout the Northeast, seemed very much in the spirit of those earlier organic abstractionists in her recent exhibition at Agora Gallery, 415 West Broadway, in Soho. Moon, however, bends her organic shapes to different ends. Rather than nature, music is her inspiration, both classical and jazz. She strives for a visual language that can convey an energy and a complexity akin to the avant garde symphonies of Stravinsky and Schoenberg, as well as to the spontaneity of jazz improvisation. And she succeeds admirably in her oils on canvas, with their combination of dark and fiery hues and their dynamically swirling compositions, as well as in her painted sculptures, which extend her explorations into three dimensions. In her oil on canvas [ The Fantasy of Jazz(Orange, yellow, &blue)], her chromatic intensity emerges in the central form, which blazes like a sun incongruously set against a nocturnal. Here, qualities of day and night intermingle in a magical synthesis of color, energy, and light. By contrast, in [The Fantasy of Jazz (Struggle of the Musicians),] the concept of a musical duel of the type that can occur spontaneously during a jazz gig takes on Olympian proportions. In this oil, colorful forms flare out upward like increasingly more strident musical notes striving to transcend each other. Like the music that inspires them, Hye ja Moon's compositions possess great variety, even while maintaining a striking stylistic consistency. [The Fantasy of Jazz (The Moonlight),] for example, takes on the feeling of a nocturnal landscape, with the lunar orb of the title in the upper left portion of the canvas and dark red strokes intersecting it like bare tree-limbs. While the artist herself might not interpret her forms so literally, for the viewer the allusive elements in this could suggest the rural origins of jazz in country blues. Conversely, [The Fantasy of Jazz(The Trumpet),] another oil on canvas in which the baroque shapes have a cursive Art Nouveau expressiveness, could suggest the contrastingly urban sophistication of one of [Duke Ellington,s major compositions. It is as though, in this painting has taken us on a guided tour of the music,s evolution form its humble beginnings in rural road-houses to its ultimate triumph in grand concert halls where jazz achieved a parity with European classical music. Much as they lend themselves to such imaginative flights, however, the paintings of Hye Ja Moon also sustain interest in purely formal terms, as autonomous abstract expressions of a unique painterly sensibility.