Critics’ Picks

Nakhee Sung, Sequence 5, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21".

Nakhee Sung, Sequence 5, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 25 1/2 x 21".

Seoul

Nakhee Sung

Perigee Gallery
1451-51 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu
March 5–May 9, 2020

Nakhee Sung’s abstract paintings have long evoked comparisons to musical scores, fashioning resonant harmonies and rhythms through an elemental approach to form, line, and palette. In these new works, Sung stacks bezeled volumes of color with variable gradients and opacities into aggregate configurations that appear to vibrate on a shared wavelength. Rather than seeming iterative, these canvases impart a precise set of variations on a theme: Their unifying structural logic is marked by a strong sense of verticality that is offset by nuanced perpendiculars, approaching the orderliness of a grid while openly flouting any attempt at uniformity.

Offering a contrast to the entropic motion that has characterized Sung’s output since the early 2000s, the aesthetic arrangements that populate this new body of work arrive at an equilibrium between restraint and freedom. They appear more stable, but no less stimulating. By emphasizing color and space over line and movement, Sung’s paintings assume a weightiness that’s more Klee than Kandinsky, cultivating an overwhelming sense of finality and repose. Insight into the myriad combinations of shape, hue, and complexity that distinguish individual works in this series can be parsed from their shared title—“Sequence.” As with musical scales and modes, which are defined by their specific sequences of intervals between notes that resonate in distinctive ways, Sung’s compositions are resolved according to the tonal character of their constituent parts: They are visual manifestations of a common cadence marking the end of a musical phrase. Taken together, these works form a diverse orchestration of separate yet intertwined voices, all without a single dissonant note among them.