June 4 - July 16, 2022
Opening Reception: June 4, 5-7PM

Helen J Gallery is pleased to present AUTOMATIC NATURE, a solo exhibition of works by Ahn Hyong Nam.

Ahn Hyong Nam’s decades-long practice merges materials and genres of disparate origins into sprawling, neon-lit paintings and assemblages animated as if of their own volition. Catalyzed by our unruly environment, Ahn collects Abrahamic parables, avian migration patterns, everyday idioms, and orchestral compositions, which he then molds into moving, corporeal forms. Metal scraps, polished sheets of aluminum, pebbles, lights, sounds, and sensations are resources for Ahn, whose omnivorous approach feeds his works’ autonomy as much as his own.

Ahn’s work “comes out automatically” as he sifts through his sketches for nebulous forms and metaphors. While the processes that govern our household appliances, algorithms, and psyches may also be ‘automatic,’ Ahn sidesteps the term’s rotely mechanical or psychoanalytic associations. Instead, his approach echoes an ancient iteration of the word, the Greek automatos, wherein a form can “act of itself” or “of one’s own will.” This dynamism, or even animism, transfers a yearning for selfhood into the already glowing, kinetic works.

While the exhibition exudes the industrial immediacy of American and Korean cities where Ahn has lived and worked, hints of natural phenomena such as vine-like armatures or stacks of river rocks reflect not just a system but an ecosystem. Recurrent ideographical hearts, sprawling figures, and visceral collages are Ahn’s reactions to the overwhelming exterior world, not as diametrical oppositions but as internal counterbalances. Ahn lightheartedly describes himself as being halfway to a monk while ruminating about the intensity of our habitats, whether human-made or otherwise. By embracing the most spontaneous and automatic force of all, nature itself, Ahn incites his works to germinate, toil, and coalesce, as if of their own will.

Ahn Hyong Nam (b. Seoul, 1954) is a multidisciplinary artist, teacher, and poet based in New York City. He received his BFA in Sculpture with a specialization in Kinetics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1980, and from 1980-1981 was a Professor of Sculpture, Drawing, and Three Dimensional Design at the University of Minnesota. He received a Fulbright Award in 1984-85, and has had over 20 solo exhibitions in galleries and museums across the United States and South Korea. 


Helen J Gallery is a contemporary art gallery based in Los Angeles. Specializing in Asian art and design, the gallery features vibrant programming and exhibitions geared towards embracing Asian culture and the diaspora. Our program aims to promote artists from various geographic locations and diverse backgrounds, foster cross-continental dialogue, and broaden the understanding of Asian culture in the Los Angeles area and beyond.

For press inquiries, please contact cameron@helenjgallery.com.