Art & Film: Grip Tape and Tape Tape

The parking lot backdrop rolls across the screen like classic Hollywood rear-projection, while Ella Fitzgerald samples punctuate a digitized hip-hop beat, and the board twirls about the seemingly stationary toes of the boarder. The question ‘what is art?’ is pertinent here, but doesn’t really enter the mind, because the images are magic; the instant artistry and super-human perception for all of 1,000 frames per second. Against the blurred suburban setting, Adam Shomsky’s documentary profiles of skateboard tricks highlights the artistry in the urban ubiquity well. Not to extend into hyperbole and call it ballet, but there are kindred graceful sweeps and leaps among the flicks of feet that command the gyroscopic flight, take-off to touch down, of the boards. You can see the physics and athleticism. You can draw in the axes of rotation and connect the boarder’s intentions directly to their movements.

Whereas this footage is art of the not-quite-oils-and-acrylic medium of human athleticism/skill combined with wooden planks/wheels, artist Hong Seon Jang uses the equally un-fine art mediums of tape, hot glue, and magazines. Using such items in layers and organic repetition, Hong Seon Jang highlights ‘aesthetic possibilities’ in found and mundane objects. He turns hundreds of National Geographics into colorful fungal colonies; metal typeface rises up into a grand Manhattanic diarama; tape fogs blackboard in geometric forest forms; hot glue webs into unfalling, black rain (or a thousand cans of dark silly string over a thousand power lines?).

Both artists, in essence, prolong an inevitable end, create a moment that allows for meticulous exploration. The high speed vignetting makes graspable the tense, I-have-to-land-this motions amid hectic flashing of grip tape, graphics, grip-tape again. Wait until after the credit roll on Shomsky’s video, and see how fleeting and flurried each trick really is, this time with a matching soundtrack of rolling wheels static and then sharp staccato cracks of landing on concrete. The presentation on the front end of the credits extrudes and stretches these moments. The lifespan of office supplies is likewise short, a fact acknowledged by their designers, manufacturers, and users, Han Seon Jang being an exception. His temporary installations and other works imbue the disposable items with unintended purpose and meaning that gives them license to stick around a while longer.

Both also represent a simplicity that is poignant when viewed against their alternative. The skateboard could not be simpler, especially against the fields of modern-engineered, mechanically powered cars they are filmed against; man, board, wheels. The art of Hong Seon Jang stands out against other art of a perhaps more familiar, typical kind, being made of grade school supplies; tape, glue, educational magazines. They ignore those things they are viewed against. Ignore in that they aren’t fighting against their counterparts, they are just achieving what they need to via an alternate, simpler method. They’re saying ‘look what people with wheeled boards, with office supplies can do.’  They are minimalist in their approach, but achieve contemporary progressiveness via tandem routes, and in ways that bend back towards the organic and natural; human athleticism and organic forms. Both bodies of work are new presentations that uniquely force a re-perception of simplicity, commonality, and time.

Sometimes it’s nice to see that something in a parking lot and something in a gallery can have so much in common.