Scrolling through interdisciplinary artist Hong Hong’s Instagram page is like drifting through the halls of an extremely well-composed museum on a dark, deserted island with sand between your toes, the night sky above you, and a warm breeze against your face.
Her art has the ability to take you to far-off places, but it's often inspired by natural elements much closer to home than you’d imagine.
Born in Hefei, China, Hong immigrated to North Dakota with her family when she was 10 years old. She earned her BFA from the State University of New York in 2011 and her MFA from the University of Georgia in 2014. Since her studies, Hong has traveled across the country creating site-responsive, large-scale paper works.
Now, she lives in Houston, where she’s most recently made an impact with solo exhibits of one-of-a-kind art at Art League Houston and Asia Society Texas Center. And she’ll be part of Lawndale Art Center’s The Big Show 2021 this June.
“When I work outdoors, I often think about touch,” Hong says. “I think about the surface of the earth as the surface of a painting. I'm interested in the ways that our bodies travel across land and sea, as well as the imprints and delineations we leave behind on these journeys, both individually and collectively.”
Inspired by the local landscape, Hong worked alongside Art League Houston to organize Reading the Weather, a massive, outdoor piece meant to react to the environment around it over time. In fact, she was so interested in seeing what nature does to the pieces, the Art League hasn't set an official close date for the show just yet.
So far, the colors have shifted from blue to green and from black to brown, as she anticipated. It’s also become more topographical the longer it’s been hanging, she adds, calling the piece both a clock and a window. “There's a lot of undulation that wasn't present previous to its time spent outside. Surprisingly, it hasn't fallen off the wall or deteriorated … It hasn't changed my perspective of this specific work, but it has given me ideas about what I do as a whole.”
Unlike Weather, Hong’s handmade paper-artistry collection, The Mountain That Does Not Describe a Circle, is decidedly indoors. The installation, on display at Asia Society through July 25, invites guests to more deeply consider the material structure and surfaces of paper, its function, and its ability to communicate a broad range of information. “I'm also interested in the innumerable ways that the world touches us back,” Hong shares. “Mark-making is a reciprocal act, where two bodies meet and alter each other during some kind of encounter."
That kind of act requires an openness and willingness to accept the other, even when the merging and sharing is complicated, she explains. And, in that, is a sense of symmetry. “Existence is somehow both additive and reductive. It moves me, and it is why I do what I do.”
While her work holds introspective qualities, posing deep, meditative questions that stand the test of time, Hong sees herself very much in the moment. “I don't believe my work is anything more than a catalogue of mornings and afternoons,” she muses. “I don't believe that my work transcends the time, the place, the history, and the weather that made it. If anything, it falls short. But maybe, on a good day, it can be honest.
Hong Hong’s shows at Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose Blvd, will be on display through late June/early July (exact date TBD), and at Asia Society Texas Center, 1370 Southmore Blvd, through July 25. Her work will also be featured in The Big Show, which opens at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main St, on June 19. More info at lawndaleartcenter.org.