Bernadette Jiyong Frank
July 9 - August 29, 2020
Dolby Chadwick Gallery is pleased to announce Time Shadow, an exhibition of recent work by Bernadette Jiyong Frank. Her highly layered compositions are notable for their striking geometric abstraction, effecting a multidimensionality that is both solid and ethereal. Though they exhibit strong formal parallels to natural phenomena, her paintings also move beyond the visual realm to one that can only be experienced with eyes closed.
At the heart of each of Frank’s paintings is the Japanese concept of Ma, which is the space or pause between events, moments, forms, and thoughts. It can be felt, for example, at the bottom of a bow or in the silences that are common in Japanese conversation. These ostensibly empty intervals are in fact full—of energy, meaning, or agreement. Ma is also central to many Japanese art forms, including ikebana (flower arranging) and Noh theater. It likewise serves as the basis for Frank’s paintings, which are built up from hundreds of layers of paint. But rather than the layers themselves, it is the space in between the layers, Frank notes, that gives the works their depth and allows them to be experienced both visually and viscerally. The final paintings produce a sense of transcendence, asking us to consider how the edges of our lives—those areas adjacent to wherever we are, physically or emotionally—might be charged with an energy, potentiality, or resonance.
Frank’s Spaces in Between series features precise forms that fan open and close, like the scattered beams of searchlights as they whirl and rake through the sky. These beams are often concentrated in the center of the compositions, where they intersect to create hourglass-like shapes. Other times, their arrangement is more diffuse, crisscrossing in elegant patterns of syncopation that result in crystalline structures. Her series Refraction uses light in a similar way, though to different ends. Frank explores refractivity in these works, using her own language to capture the optical play of light rays deflecting and transforming as they interact with their environment. The remarkable depth conjured by paintings from both series is a product of their inherent Ma, which Frank achieves through her rigorous and time-consuming process. Each layer represents a single day, as Frank has to allow the medium to dry between applications. By emphasizing deep, ponderous blues, greens, and purples, her color palette aids the contemplative, almost mysterious mood unleashed by what can be viewed as renderings of time.
Self-portraiture is her point of departure in her newest series, Migrant. Though Korean, Frank grew up in Japan before moving to California at the age of thirteen; as an adult, she lived in Germany before moving back to the United States. Her story is one of displacement and movement, of never feeling fully rooted in one land. This is reflected in the shifting motion of the rectangular shapes, which glimmer as they expand and reshuffle, moving back and forth in an unbroken dance. At the same time, the rectangular shape—a robust, solid form—signifies the strength of the individual. Unlike Spaces in Between and Refraction, which primarily feature white paint mixed with one color to create a range of values, Migrant utilizes multiple colors to expand a composition’s valency and enhance its depth. These paintings manifest a hypnotizing, Rothko-like energy, while also demonstrating Frank’s emphatic engagement with the passage of time and the interceding moments that shape our world.
Bernadette Jiyong Frank was born into a Korean family in Tokyo, Japan, in 1964. She moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as a young teenager and then to Los Angeles, where she later studied at the Otis Art Institute of Parson School of Design and the nearby Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Her work has been exhibited across the United States and Germany and has been acquired by the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento. This is her second solo exhibition at the Dolby Chadwick Gallery.