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Jiha Moon's candy coated chaos

Saltworks Gallery pops with Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts

Painter Jiha Moon, who lives in Atlanta but was born in Korea, invokes the vertical composition of traditional Korean painting, but opens up her work to the most American of abstract expressionists – Jackson Pollock – and the fluidity of his drips and splatters.


Zigzags and curlicues draw the eye up through the flattened space of Moon's "Blue Peony," now on view in her solo show, Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts, at Saltworks Gallery. "Yalari-Yala" pops with hot fuchsia and a cool thalo green mixed with white to make a color you'll probably recognize from your toothpaste. A lovely dark cloud blends a clear cobalt blue skyward into the darkest of indigos. Moon flings around bold colors in her work with such abandon, the combinations can be startling.

The artist professes a love for Philip Guston. A respected abstract painter, Guston made an abrupt 180-degree turn to pictorial imagery well into his career. Large heads and eyes painted in a limited red, gray, and green palette stack up on his canvases like the cigarette butts and light bulbs found elsewhere in his work. Moon doesn't evoke Guston's style so much as his spirit. While the pieces in Blue Peony don't carry the emotional weight of Guston's oil paintings, they similarly incorporate and rework cartoons, pop-culture tidbits, and the stuff of everyday life: Tigers leap small paintings in a single bound and Astro Boy comes in for a landing.

Moon's work evokes the natural landscape as much as the cultural one. Nature for her can be angst-filled, as in "Painter's Argument" in which thunder and lightning and wind and rain blow about as false teeth clatter and smoke rises above the miasma.

Quieter is "Good Place," a small tondo rubbed black and overlaid with black, blue, or red and white cartoon-like peaches that float over the surface like little time bombs.

"Storehouse," a large installation tucked into the back of the gallery, is composed of kitschy objects culled from toy stores and gift shops. Small, fastidiously arranged objects such as Pez dispensers sit just beneath eye level on exuberant red, green, blue, yellow and pink shelves. On the floor below sit five little sacks and some balls. The whole thing is like a code key to the rest of the show. Several of her small paintings rest on the shelves as if taking refuge from the turbulent world she's created outside the nook. For the onlookers, however, Moon's paintings are delicious forays into chaos.

Blue Peony and Impure Thoughts Through March 6. Free. Wed.-Fri., noon-6 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saltworks Gallery, 664 11th St. 404-881-0411. www.saltworksgallery.com.


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