Hyeseung Marriage-Song, Modern Prometheus
January 24th - February 16th, 2019
Equity Gallery, 245 Broome Street, New York, NY 10002
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 24th, 6 PM-8 PM
Gallery Hours: Wednesday - Friday, 1-7 PM and Saturday, 12-6 PM
Equity Gallery is pleased to present Modern Prometheus, a solo show featuring the artwork of Hyeseung Marriage-Song.
Though mainstream culture is steeped in the Frankenstein tale, the vast majority of its literary roots are misremembered, in part due to being distorted and overshadowed by various schlocky film adaptations. For instance, it’s often forgotten that the monster is nameless and the titular Frankenstein is the scientist who made him—a vital thematic distinction. Mary Shelley’s tale, which is over 200 years old as of 2019, was an imaginative spin on the myth of the golem, an anthropomorphic being fashioned by raw materials, most often in clay, and imbued with some autonomy and human agency. The golem is present in stories of many cultures, but is arguably most widely known via the myth of the ancient Greek Titan, Prometheus (Shelley herself chose “the Modern Prometheus” to be the subtitle of her short book) and in Jewish folklore. In the traditional Jewish stories, the impetus to create the golem was to aid and protect the Jewish people in a moment of crisis, but the being must finally be destroyed (returned to dust) after it is found ultimately uncontrollable. Present through all these parables is the theme of hubris, particularly humans’ hubris: having made an ersatz copy of themselves, to mistakenly think the one who is formed can be contained and controlled.
Marriage-Song’s contemporary update of the golem myth also develops and seizes on the theme of creativity and the duality of humanity found in Shelley’s novel. Victor Frankenstein is driven to create something out of nothing; at base, then, he is an artist, for that is the artist’s life- to form out of the raw what must ultimately go out in the world, interact with others, and thus makes a life of its own. As for Frankenstein’s monster, he wants a partner created for himself— so he, too, in that way possesses the creative impulse. Though Boris Karloff’s interpretation of the monster is striking and lives still fresh in our minds, Marriage-Song conveys an image of the golem as beautiful, complex, intelligent—and perhaps tattooed, a modern play on the suturing together of the cemetery cadavers that Shelley’s scientist-artist was driven to.
These paintings are not direct illustrations of Shelley’s plot. Instead, they are psychological and philosophical meditations of those texts and the golem mythology. Characters are portrayed psychologically, with the action of the story reflected in the visual idiom of unsettled and fractured forms, swirling circularity, atmospheric brushwork that is at times resolved and at others broken. The manipulations of art convention serve Marriage-Song’s vision that every generation creates copies of themselves which are let loose upon the world, and then those, inevitably becoming artist-makers themselves, create again, and so on and so forth, thereby making us all a little bit monster, a little bit artist.
Who knows, and cares, which generation we are in this iterative process.
Modern Prometheus will be on view at Equity Gallery from Thursday, January 24th to Saturday, February 16th.
About the Artist:
Hyeseung Marriage-Song is an award-winning artist based in Brooklyn. With a background in philosophy and writing, she is known for oil paintings and drawings. A Princeton graduate, she studied at Harvard and The Water Street Atelier. Her work has been exhibited around the world and is held in private collections in several countries