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Explore the Artist’s Work

“By reinserting used, familiar materials back into the public realm, I invite a large, diverse audience to bring their own histories to the work.”—Jean Shin

Unraveling, 2006–18

Sweaters collected from the Asian American art community
This project visualizes the intricate network of relationships in the Asian American art community. Originally commissioned in 2006 by the Asia Society in New York, the work features hundreds of sweaters contributed by communities in New York, Houston, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. Shin deconstructed and reassembled the sweaters on three walls, linking the sweaters of acquaintances with strands of yarn to create a colorful map of personal connections.

See a time-lapse video of Unraveling >>

Armed, 2005–9

Military uniforms collected from US soldiers, thread, and starch
Shin challenges the function of camouflage by making visible the individuals that make up the US Armed Forces. With the help of the Harbor Defense Museum in New York, she collected the personal histories and uniforms of active soldiers and veterans. In her careful arrangement of deconstructed fatigues, she highlights the distinctiveness of each person and humanizes their experience.

Spring Collection, 2016

Leather scraps from Marc Jacobs spring 2015 collection and T pins
For these works, Shin used leather scraps donated by designer Marc Jacobs to Materials for the Arts, an organization in New York that provides supplies to those in need. She crafted these remnants into a jigsawlike series of flat compositions that resemble animal skins. The ghostly open spaces that lie within each work serve as a reminder of the commercial goods that were made from the material and their elaborate manufacturing process.

Pattern Folds, 2009

Fabric and patterns from the Calvin Klein Spring 2010 Women’s Collection
To create these hanging sculptures, Shin transformed the pattern shapes and bolts of fabrics leftover from the production of a Calvin Klein runway collection. Inspired by origami and apparel patternmakers, she folded sheets of stiffened fabric to orient the empty shapes into a body’s upright position. Her creative manipulation of material challenges us to consider the interplay of the fabric and the “ideal” bodies that the negative space is meant to cover.

Worn Soles, 2001

Leather soles and heels
Shin highlights the part of the shoe that rarely draws people’s attention, the soles. The base of the shoe bears the body’s weight and serves as a perceptible memory of someone’s footprint. Arranged with soles face up, this work reveals a multitude of heel heights and tread patterns and offers a group portrait of individuals with diverse physical traits and fashion tastes. The organic placement of the soles on the floor resemble the foot traffic of our everyday lives.

Hide, 2004

Cut leather and suede (shoes), thread, and shoelaces
This installation features hundreds of leather shoes that have been flattened, paired, and stitched together to form hanging tapestries that vary in color, detail, and design. The title and presentation of this work suggest the leather material’s origins as tanned animal hide. The title also alludes to the artist’s aim to seek hidden beauty within ordinary, worn-out objects. Hide is made from the same cast-off shoes collected by the artist for Worn Soles.

Watch: Excerpt of Penumbra, 2003

Single-channel video with sound
This video captures a billowing installation that the artist created for Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York. Shin first collected umbrellas that were left abandoned on the street after several windy storms. She detached the fabrics from their frames and joined them together to create a large canopy in the trees. Altered in form, purpose, and beauty, they offer shade from the sun, rise and fall with the breeze, and cast gentle shadows on the grass below.

​Video courtesy of the artist