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Sung Jik Yang at Philip Martin
“Paseo,” the title of Sung Jik Yang’s exhibition at Philip Martin, comes from the Spanish verb, “to promenade.” More specifically, it refers to the outdoor shopping complex in Pasadena of the same name, where Yang meets a number of his portrait subjects. He approaches shoppers from Pasadena, the San Gabriel Valley, and the Inland Empire, as well as tourists, and asks to photograph them so he can later paint the encounter in his studio.
In a solo exhibition of new oil-on-canvas works painted in the wet-on-wet style popularized by artists like Edouard Manet, Yang presents a wide variety of arresting identities that meet your gaze, or in other cases, appear caught in a moment of contemplation. Either way, each portrait reveals a new layer of humanity.
The Korean-born, Los Angeles-based Yang plays with the idea of being both an insider and an outsider. He straddles that line and views the city’s infrastructure and its people with fresh eyes, while also picking up on connections across the interior lives of his subjects. Yang still considers painting to be the most humanizing medium there is, but also sees it as a compliment to the phones and screens that have enhanced the relationship between viewer and subject.
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Photo: Sung Jik Yang, Paseo (installation view) (2023). Images courtesy of Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Jeff McLane