Paige Jiyoung Moon paints with the precision of a jeweler and a reverence for the real that has its roots in the Northern Renaissance. Her first solo show in L.A., at the gallery Steve Turner, features eight small canvases and panels, each a meticulously observed portrait or scene, painted from memory. They verge on the devotional, but not in a religious sense.
Moon’s attention is fixed on the ordinary, the everyday. How much more mundane can you get than a depiction of herself zapping an “Uninvited Guest” in her apartment with bug spray? She recognizes the exquisite particularity of these common moments and, in doing so, invests them with something akin to sacredness.
Born in Seoul and living for the last decade in L.A., Moon attends to the details of a place, and the specificity of the information she delivers accrues into a distinct sense of the inhabitants. Moon is a careful and tender archivist, painting the lint roller resting on the sofa, the sneakers on the doormat and the slippers scattered across the floor. We can read the brand name of the gum packet on her coffee table and the tagline on her tissue box.
In “Ko’s Old Apartment,” the titles on the bookshelves identify two women’s shared fondness for David Hockney. In describing so exactingly the patterns of rugs and quilted bedding, the sheer drapery raised in a knot to let in air and the neat array of drawing pencils on the worktable, Moon makes every inch of the personal space feel personal.
“Days of Our Lives,” as the show is coyly titled, also includes a record of a visit to the snowy woods, where Moon and her husband snap simultaneous pictures of each other. In another painting, they’re seen chronicling their reflected presence in the facade of Doug Aitken’s mirror-clad house, part of the 2017 Desert X exhibition in the Coachella Valley. In a fantastically dense scene of a Korean bar, customers take selfies amid the bustle.
Moon’s depiction of herself and her peers so consistently engaged with their phones — whether on a social night out or a private night in — adds to the naturalism of the pictures. They are true not just to the material texture of the everyday but also to its cultural texture.
That honesty also injects a queasy contradiction with weighty import: The very kind of intense scrutiny of experience that Moon practices in composing these paintings is exactly what extensive time on the small screen disallows. Her manner of crisply and comprehensively transcribing the visual world might seem a thing of the past, but it is her patient, immersive, voracious way of seeing that is the real lost art.
Steve Turner, 6830 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. Through Feb. 16; closed Sundays and Mondays. (323) 460-6830, steveturner.la
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