Jean Shin

y transforming accumulations of everyday objects into visually alluring conceptual explorations, my work speaks to the optimism inherent in giving new form to life's leftovers. In my sculptures and large-scale installations, I seek to recall an object's past, as well as suggest its greater connection to our collective memories, desires and failures. My inventory of everyday materials includes broken umbrellas, donated clothing, losing lottery tickets, empty wine bottles and discarded computer keycaps. These humble remnants, often forgotten and no longer "useful", nevertheless retain the traces of their former lives. After accumulating and deconstructing hundreds--sometimes even thousands--of these cast-offs, I synthesize the collection of them into new constructions for my sculptures, videos and site-specific installations.

Taken together, the objects appear homogenous and monumental. Upon closer inspection however, their individuality and variety emerges. The focus of my installations shifts continually between the identity of the individual and that of the group, the single unit and the larger whole, the intimate and the excessive. My elaborate process mirrors these dualities, as objects of mass production and consumerism are transformed by hand and through intense physical labor.

When collecting materials for my work, I frequently solicit donations from participants within a specific community. The donated items act as surrogates for their original owners by referencing the body. Some objects do this through their physical shape and former function, while others are more abstract, engaging ideas of the senses, perception, and behavior. In this way, my installations become both group portraits and methods of mapping contemporary society.

Much of my work is site-specific, establishing a dialogue with not only architecture and outdoor spaces, but also the communities that inhabit and activate them. By reinserting used, familiar materials back into the public realm, I invite a large, diverse audience to bring their own histories to the work. Through these encounters each installation forms its own imagined community, revealing new associations and meanings for ephemera, and speaking to our shared experiences.

Tea House

Jean Shin and Brian Ripel
Plastic stirrers, aluminum tubing, reclaimed timber, tea cups and tea.
8' 10" x 14' 9" x 18' 9"
Courtesy of the Artists and the Cristin Tierney Gallery, NY.

Castles in the Air

Jean Shin and Brian Ripel
Tea bags, string, aluminum frame, acrylic mirror.
Dimensions variable.
Courtesy of the Artists and the Cristin Tierney Gallery, NY.

Measuring the Depths of Nature

Jean Shin and Brian Ripel
Dimensions variable.
Courtesy of the Artists and the Cristin Tierney Gallery, NY.


Jean Shin is nationally recognized for her monumental installations that transform everyday objects into elegant expressions of identity and community. For each project, she amasses vast collections of a particular object--prescription pill bottles, sports trophies, sweaters--which are often sourced through donations from individuals in a participating community. These intimate objects then become the materials for her conceptually rich sculptures, videos and site-specific installations. Distinguished by her meticulous, labor-intensive process, and her engagement of community, Shin's arresting installations reflect individuals' personal lives as well as collective issues that we face as a society.

Her work has been widely exhibited in major national and international museums, including in solo exhibitions at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona (2010), Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC (2009), the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia (2006), and Projects at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (2004).

Other venues have been the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Art and Design, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Asia Society and Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, Sculpture Center, Socrates Sculpture Park, and Frederieke Taylor Gallery in New York City. Site-specific permanent installations have been commissioned by the US General Services Administration Art in Architecture Award, New York City's Percent for the Arts and MTA Art for Transit. She has received numerous awards, including the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Architecture / Environmental Structures (2008) and Sculpture (2003), Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Art Award. Her works have been featured in many publications, including Frieze Art, Flash Art, Tema Celeste, Art in America, Sculpture Magazine, Artnews, and The New York Times.

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in the United States, Shin attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1999 and received a BFA and MS from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She lives and works in New York City.

32 Poems
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