Critics’ Picks

View of “Jesse Chun,” 2016.

View of “Jesse Chun,” 2016.

New York

Jesse Chun

Spencer Brownstone Gallery
3 Wooster Street
July 16–October 8, 2016

Jesse Chun’s “Blueprints” series, 2016, comprises twenty-three framed pigment prints, several of which are layered, and covered in dark-blue rectangles and lines. What are these strange schematics, one might ask? Machine diagrams? Alien communiqués? The answer is far more banal. Chun photographed immigration forms and digitally purged them of text, removing their national and linguistic markers. Only the uniform fill-in bubbles and answer grids remain, floating unmoored across the page in geometric patterns that point to a widespread visual language of global transit and expatriation.

Immigration’s paper trail is the medium of choice throughout Chun’s aptly titled “On Paper,” and proves to be an unlikely source of poetry and beauty—terms rarely associated with bureaucracy. “Landscapes,” 2013–15, is a suite of large-format photographs that isolate and hone in on the background images of passport pages—a tree, a waterfall, a mountain range—so heavily watermarked that they almost look pixelated. These nondescript nature pictures could represent any number of countries, recasting passport holders as global citizens rather than affiliates of any single state. For “Forms,” 2016, Chun, a South Korean expat, turned to her personal collection of visa applications to create erasure poems. Some of the resulting verses are abstract, but the most memorable one, from Form #4, provides a manifesto for the exhibition at large: “Mother. Father. ALL sons and daughters, regardless of age or place.” This expression of humankind’s interconnectedness is especially powerful, considering it was wrestled from paperwork intended to classify and divide populations.