Ran Hwang

Of Buttons and Pins
Empty Me
Garden of water 6 panels , beads, crystal pins
Two Love Tree,
Ran Hwang
Healing Blossoms II _TWJ
Healing Blossoms I _TWJ
Healing Blossoms 2

About The Artist

Ran Hwang graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts, New York, and subsequently went on to attain her Masters Degree in Fine Arts at the Graduate School of Arts Chung-Ang University in Seoul, Korea. This Korean-born artist currently resides and practices her craft in New York, and is best-known for creating intricate, large-scale wall installations with exquisite materials from the fashion industry such as beads, buttons, pins and thread.  

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To the artist, buttons and beads symbolize the commonplace ordinariness of human beings; pins being the points of connection, and threads as a communicative link. Using a hammer to pound thousands of pins into walls in the process of her art, Ran Hwang herself projects the austere embodiment of a monk practicing spiritual discipline and Zen. This repetitive and laborious working process results in grandiose images of objects and beings, representing the natural and divine, in an attempt to address current social issues. Through her works, she constantly seeks to explore and delve into human experiences and connections, as well as positive and negative spaces. For the past decade, her works have been exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions across the globe in countries such as Korea, Switzerland, USA and France, and are collected by distinguished hotels, museums and companies including the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Hong Kong, the Shin Choi Fashion Company in New York, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul.  

Ran Hwang has completed several residencies such as at the Performance Space Studio Residency Program in 2011; the AAI-Artist Alliance, Lower East Side-Rotating & Long Term Studio Program in 2006; as well as the Full Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Residency Program, Vermont, U.S.A in 2004. Her works have been awarded the Gold Prize at the AHL Foundation Annual Arts Competition, New York in 2004; the Kyung-In Art Grand Exhibition at Puchun City Museum, Korea in 1996, and the Korean Water Watercolor Public Subscription Exhibition, Cultural Art Promotion House Art Hall, Seoul in 1995.

At first glance, simplicity may seem to define her work, but simplicity is merely a thin veil over an intricate and thoughtful process resulting in an alluring and seductive body of work. Ran Hwang uses buttons, or threads, with pins to produce provocative images of vessels, of birds and of the Buddha both as installations and as objects on their own. Her practice speaks to the meditative nature that a repetitive process inspires where the experience of the work cannot be separated from its materiality and how it is made. In her most recent series, Hwang reflects on the nature of the vessel. As she explains, "Containers can be empty or serve to contain something. Like our bodies, they can be filled or emptied." Her works can be seen as a contemplation of impermanence and mortality. The strength of Hwang's work is in its process and the resulting immediacy and resonance with the viewer.

Hwang constructs the complex textuality of her works with simple, everyday objects, such as buttons, pins and threads, and, by recontextualizing them, they are transformed and seen anew. Because they have been removed from their recognizable, functional context into an unconventional one, they create a visuality that is tactile, and call upon a mimetic knowledge that becomes re-experienced in their presence. Her objects offer a familiar site in which to delve deeper in order to generate reflection, and even wonder. For Hwang, contemplating and representing a larger wholeness bring a sense of peace. The process of constructing these works is an object of meditation for Hwang.

One way to approach Hwang's work is by considering the Buddhist ideas of the interdependence of form and emptiness, in other words, form is emptiness, and emptiness is nothing other than form. In the case of Hwang, this concept can be seen in the interdependence of negative and positive space. The self (body and mind) depend on all that is not-self, just as the vessel's form depends on the space around it. Similarly, a vessel's usefulness depends on the interplay of form and emptiness.

Artist Statement

"I create large icons such as a Buddha or a traditional vase, using materials from the fashion industry. The process of building large installations is time consuming and repetitive and it requires manual effort which provides a form of self-meditation. I hammer thousands of pins into a wall like a monk who, facing the wall, practices Zen. My works are divided into two groups. In the first, pins used to hold buttons remain free to move and suggest the genetic human tendency to be irresolute. I choose the material of buttons, which are as common and ordinary as human beings. In the second group of works, a massive number of pins connects yards of thread creating a negative space of the presented images, threads suggesting connections between human beings and a communication network between seemingly un-linked human experiences. The filled negative space in the absence of positive space suggests mortality at the heart of self-recognition."

Selected Collections

Des Moines Art Centre, Des Moines, IA  

Brooklyn Museum, New York  

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Hong Kong  

The Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai  

Shin Choi Fashion Company, New York  

National Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Bank, Seoul, Korea  

HANEZA Itariana, Fashion Company, Seoul, Korea  

Hammond Museum, New York

Selected Awards

 PS122 STUDIO Residency Program, New York  

AAI-Artist Alliance, Lower East Side-Rotating & Long Term Studio Program, New York  

Full Fellowship, Vermont Studio Center Residency Program, Vermont, U.S.A  

Gold Prize, AHL Foundation Annual Arts Competition, New York  

Gold Prize, Korean Watercolor Public Subscription Exhibition, Cultural Art Promotion House Art Hall, Seoul, Korea        
Art World Grand Prix, Kyung-In Art Museum, Seoul, Korea




2019   Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium
2017   Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore
          Leila Heller Gallery, New York
2015   UNESCO Paris Headquarters, Paris
          MASS MoCA - Hunter Center Mezzanine, MA
          International Museum of Art and Science (IMAS), Cardenas Gallery, Texas, USA
2014   Third Floor-Hermès Singapore, Singapore
          Leila Heller Gallery, New York
          Asian Art Works, 798 Beijing, China
2012   Leila Heller Gallery, New York
2010   Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2009   Kashya Hildebrand Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland
2008   ACAF (Asian Contemporary Art Fair), Pier 92, Special Exhibition, New York
2007   2X13 Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2006   Hass Gallery, Bloomsburg University, PA, USA
2005   Open Studio, Vermont Studio Art Center, Jonson Vermont, U.S.A
2004   Hutchins Gallery, Long Island University, NewYork
2002   Hudson River Gallery, New York
           Yee Mook Gallery, Seoul, Korea
2001    Hudson River Gallery, New York
2000   Artsnal Gallery, Paris
1999    Hudson River Gallery, New York


2019    Then and Now: Contemporary Asian Art, Hermitage Museum & Gardens, Norfolk, VA
2018    Infinite Blue, Brooklyn Museum, New York
           Art in the Workplace, Yonsei University Dental Hospital
           POSTMODERNISM AND AESTHETICS: COLLIDE OR STEER, Korea Cultural Center, New York
           Paper Moon, Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete, Greece
           PASSION. CONTINUED, Asia Week New York Special Exhibition, Korean Cultural Center of New York,
           New York
2017   Infinite Blue, Brooklyn Museum, New York
          Mykonos Biennale, Trans Allegoria
2016   Art & Life, Art Space Ben, Seoul
          AHL Foundation 13th Annual Benefit Gala, New York
          Material Girls, Contemporary Calgary, Alberta, Canada
          Pinned Stitched and Glitzed, Asian Art Works, Beijing, China
          Viewing The Past Thru Modern Eyes, Kang Collection, New York, USA
          Lady Dior As Seen By, House of Dior, Seoul, South Korea; World Tour exhibition
          Material Girls, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Ontario, Canada    
          Water, KANEKO, NE, USA
2015   AHL Foundation 12th Annual Benefit Gala, New York
          Regeneration, Opera Gallery Paris, Paris, France
          Pinned Stitched and Glitzed, Anya and Andrew Shiva Art Gallery, New York
          Summer Show, Leila Heller Gallery, New York
          Accidental Encounter, Buk Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea
          Diverse Works: Director’s Choice, 1997-2015, Brooklyn Museum, New York
          Arts in Spring, Guangzhou Library, Guangzhou, China
          Material Girls, Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
2014   Asian Collection, Asian Art Works, Beijing, China
          The Lineage of Vision, Korean Cultural Service, New York
          AHL Foundation 11th Annual Benefit Gala, New York
          MASS MoCA 15th Anniversary Benefit, New York
          Art International Istanbul (Leila Heller Gallery), Istanbul, Turkey
          Mix & Match, Artspace Ben, Seoul, Korea
          Annual Watermill Summer Benefit Auction, The Watermill Center, Water Mill, New York
          The Archives of Korean-American Artists, Queens Museum of Art, New York
          The Fabergè Big Egg Hunt, New York
          The Armory Show, Leila Heller Gallery, New York
2013   Abu Dhabi Art, Kashya Hildebrand gallery, Abu Dhabi
          Korea International Art Fair-Vip Lounge, AAW Beijing, Korea
          Paths to Peace, Hammond Museum Guild Hall Gallery, New York
          Living Room, Asian Art Works, Busan, Korea
          Summer Group Show, Leila Heller Gallery, New York, USA
          Freedom: Just another word for…,Kidspace@ Mass Moca, North Adams, MA
          Transparencies: Contemporary Art and A History of Glass, Des Moines Art Center
2012   Media Variegations, Asian Art Works, 798 Beijing, China
          L'Asie en Vogue Exhibition, Pagoda Paris Gallery, France
          Peekskill Project V, HVCCA-Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, NY
          Conference of Birds, CYNTHIA-REEVES Projects, Mana Contemporary, New Jersey
          FIFTH ANNUAL QUEENS ART EXPRESS, Jamaica Center for Arts Learning, NY
          VIP Art Fair 2.0, Leila Heller Gallery, NY
2011    Aha Moment!, Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Art Center, Seoul, Korea
          AHL FoundationAnnual Auction, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York
          Sofia International Paper Art Biennale 2011, Sofia, Bulgaria
          Finding Flow, Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art, Jeju Island, Korea
2010   Foundation, Gala Auction, Arario Gallery, New York
          B.I.E.N.N.A.L.E + ONE, Kwang-ju, Korea
          Fokus Lodz Biennale 2010, Lodz, Poland
2009   Kaleidoscope, Kashya Hildebrand Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland
          Beginning of New Era, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
          Triple of Light, mnav (Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales), Uruguay
2008   KIAF (Korean International Art Fair), COEX, 2x13 Gallery, Seoul, Korea
           Facial of Art- 20 Years Anniversary exhibition, Seoul Art Center Museum, Seoul, Korea
2007    Incarnation, Hammond Museum, New York
           Drawing the Line - Against Domestic Violence-Auction, The Metropolitan Pavilion,
           Woman in Love, Tenri Gallery, New York