July 29 - August 16, 2020
Guest co-curator Alex Paik
Artist, Curator, Founder/Director of Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Director of Trestle Gallery, Brooklyn, NY 

Participating artists:

Aaron Caldwell
Amy Boone-McCreesh
Angelica Yudasto
Chen Nien-Ying
Christian Perdix
Danielle Hernandez
Deborah Zlotsky
Delaney DeMott
Hyun Cho
Ian Etter
Jamie Johnson
Ji Kwon
Jonathan Colombo

Jonathan Lee
Julia Garcia
Minjung Lee
Morgan C Flores
Na Chainkua Reindorf
Nadim Kurani
Natalie Michelle Cruz
Nikko Washington
Ryan Ferreira Hermogenio
Tadasuke Jinno
Teun Verheij
Ting Hsu
TinWai Wong


Young Space is pleased to present SYSTEMS APPROACH, co-curated by Alex Paik (Founder/Director of Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Director of Trestle Gallery) and Kate Mothes (Founder of Young Space). SYSTEMS APPROACH presents the work of 26 artists from around the world, representing a range of early-career, emerging, and mid-career practices. Examining language, the virtual world, media consumption, social structures, cultural heritage and symbolism, this collection of work relates to systems and structures, both seen and unseen, which shape our identities and routines within the communities--and the world--we live in. The title SYSTEMS APPROACH is derived from systems theory, the complex study of systems and structures, both natural and human-built. The aim of systems theory is to understand how systems are structured, influenced, defined, and applied, ranging from mathematics, biology, psychology, social network systems, and more. An “approach” suggests movement toward or an application of an idea, and guest co-curator Alex Paik offers personal insights into a curatorial and artistic process concerned with the ways the art world has historically operated from Euro-centric and therefore predominantly white centers of power and influence, and the work toward a better, more diverse system.

Curatorial Statements:

Alex Paik:

The artists in this show examine and combine various existing and imaginary systems in their work. These works examine the systems and structures that are material, cultural, conceptual, spatial, lingual, even emotional. Artists such as Ting Hsu, Tadasuke Jinno, and Nadim Kurani draw attention to the structure of their respective mediums and materials themselves, simultaneously calling attention to and playfully bending the traditional approaches. Paintings by Nikko Washington, Ryan Ferreira Hermogenio, and Julia Garcia are barely contained within their rectangular borders, threatening to spill out of the structure and into (or out of) this world. Others like Nien-Ying Chen, Tin Wai Wong, and Na Chainkua Reindorf mine the structures of their personal histories and cultures in order to create new and exciting hybrids.

As a long-time artist, curator, and arts administrator, I have been paying particular attention to the ways in which white supremacy hides itself within the very structure of the art world. So as I approached this open call I tried to keep my eyes wide open to look for ways in which the structure of an open call could perpetuate or oppose white supremacy. The first thing I noticed was that there was no demographic data available in the application, which is quite common in open calls like these — out of the many open calls that I’ve juried I can think of only one or two that provided demographic information to me as the juror. While I do not think that omitting demographic data in an open call is a racist policy, I do think that it allows for the juror to easily perpetuate white supremacy unless the juror makes significant moves to check themselves and unless the host organization has clear policies on their values.

With about 700 entries to go through, I would normally go through each application very quickly due to time constraints, using a quick gut instinct to make a value judgment. But as an Asian American who grew up in predominantly white suburbs, went to white schools, and studied mostly white artists, authors, and thinkers, I would of course naturally gravitate towards art that replicates the art that I studied unless I made conscious efforts to think outside of my own framework. Although I have been cultivating broader tastes over the past several years, my foundational learning about art and art history was white by default, and it takes a great amount of unlearning to realize that what was presented as neutral was actually colored by white supremacy. This is the great lie of the current contemporary art world — that white taste is the same as neutral taste, that white taste is the only valid metric by which we can judge art. (As a side note, it is interesting to note that because most of us spent a lot of time steeped in white Euro-American art history there is room for a huge amount of nuance allowed in white art — is that same amount of nuance allowed when thinking about Black art? Asian-American art? Indigenous art? Latinx art?)

So I tried to the best of my ability to look at the work, read the statements, and do some internet detective work in order to try to judge the work submitted based on a more holistic and critical approach rather than my own narrow first-glance preferences based on taste. Being able to at least name and recognize the lens with which one is looking at art through, opens one up to the idea that there are several other intersecting and interesting lenses with which one should be thinking about art through. Perhaps because I have been spending so much time thinking about structures, I found myself naturally seeing a common thread in work that dealt with systems and structures and chose work that fit this theme with Kate. The works in this show become poetic mirrors in which we can examine the invisible structures that have shaped us as individuals. Thank you to all the artists for the chance to see all of your work, and thank you, Young Space, for the opportunity!

Alex Paik
Artist, Curator, Founder/Director of Tiger Strikes Asteroid and Director of Trestle Gallery, Brooklyn, NY

Kate Mothes:

One reason that organizing an exhibition in collaboration with another curator is so valuable is that it challenges me to think outside of my own preconceptions. For example, although it’s perhaps unfashionable to say so, I have always been a formalist at heart. My initial, instinctual response to an artwork is always because of its composition, its essential relationships of line, color, space, and form. But I have also been aware that this is one side of the coin: the other is to understand a meaning or an intention behind a work of art, and my constant challenge has always been to remember to pair these two together, to experience not only the initial “singing” of a beautifully composed artwork as if it is something devoid of meaning or concept, but to understand what it might be trying to express or communicate, or how it makes me feel.

It’s important to take the whole picture into consideration: the work itself, the artist, the environment, along with the systems we have been taught, participated in, and perpetuated. I see it as a duty of any curator to work with artists to ask new questions of viewers, of institutions, and of our relationship to art itself. The means of doing this can vary widely and cross over in interesting ways, whether in a space, through text, in open discussion, or online. The art world is a microcosm of the world at large, an economy unto itself, reflecting separate yet intersectional strata of class and access that represent “regions” which, systematically, are not often traveled between. Like any industry or community there has developed a language and subtle cues or norms which preserve a status quo, and which inherently influence the way the market operates, who participates in what, or who governs popular opinion. 2020 is nothing if not a test of the limits, philosophies, capabilities, and ingenuity of people in the arts.

Artists are at the forefront of discussions about access, diversity, and inclusion, both in the arts and in our local and global communities. Art is a language with which to communicate these things, but especially during the continuing challenges of the pandemic, along with social and economic shifts, it is at once a tool, a salve, a resource, a community. The work in this exhibition reflects narrative, a disassembling and reassembling of ideas and materials, as well as a dedication to process and learning. Many works examine the ways we communicate and how our cultures and heritage form our present identities. This show has reminded me to dissect my preconceived ideas, and consider further possibilities in curating, which circles back to remembering to always ask questions. I’m thrilled to have been able to review the work of so many artists, to include selections from the 26 artists in SYSTEMS APPROACH, and to have been able to work with Alex Paik to organize this show.

Kate Mothes
Founder/Curator, Young Space