BrooklynSeoul shines as part of a trio of exceptional exhibitions that opened at BWAC on November 13, running through December 12. Don’t miss any of these exciting exhibits; BWAC Fall Member Show, Brooklyn Seoul and the Holiday Market.
BrooklynSeoul was co-curated by BWAC member Geuryung Lee and her brother, Hojin Lee and features their work and art from a selection of Korean and Korean American artists. I had the delightful experience at the opening of interviewing four of the exhibiting artists. This provided the opportunity to engage with the artwork while I could ask each artist questions about their process and technique.
Aaron Chung’s contribution to the exhibition was my first destination. I had noticed his work on the BWAC promo for the show and was immediately motivated to see more. Aaron’s work on display are large multi-layer hanging scrolls in a subdued palette featuring botanical subject matter. Aaron is the only one of the four artists I spoke to who was born in the Unites States. He talked about growing up in San Francisco to parents who owned a dry cleaning business. When speaking of the significance of his ethnic background, he remembered he interacted with few Koreans as a child. Aaron acknowledged working hard to learn about his Korean heritage including a Fulbright Fellowship in Korea.
When Aaron talked about his concept development, I appreciated the depth and complexity of his thinking. He is referencing flowers, composition and materials of Asian and specifically Korean art and culture while reflecting his contemporary sensibilities. The pieces hang as scrolls in two layers so that cast shadow of the cut canvas is an important component of the work. Enamored by the imagery and scale, I am also intrigued by his technical process. He is drawing botanical imagery, cutting it out of canvas and gluing it on mesh. This scroll hangs in front of another painting. A detail above shows how Aaron incorporates tickets from his parents dry cleaning business in his art…a kind of reference to home. My favorite is Dear Mother, dedicated to his mother and including flowers associated with mothers in Korean culture. The large botanical imagery of his scrolls captured my heart and spoke to me directly. The pieces are elegantly imposing yet delicate.
Jung Eun Park’s work includes a table with a piece she is working on and the tools she is frequently using, adding a unique dimenions to her installation. My conversation with Jung Eun focused on her separation from her mother in Korea and the frustration of meaningful communication from such a distance. A recurring image in her work is an icon of a house and vegetation. She explains it this way, “Since I moved to New York from Korea and being separated from my family in a long-distance, I’ve been obsessed about fear of unconnected relationship and uncertainty of where I belong. In my work, I investigate the meaning of home by observing my relationship with people, objects, and environments.”
I found her most compelling work on the table. It’s the back of a letter to her mother that she has embroidered. It is unreadable to the viewer and speaks to her frustration. As she explains, “In a series of text-embroidered drawings, I use text as imagery of communication difficulty, showing a backside of embroidered text. This was started from the work, “Letter to Mother, 2009”. I embroidered my handwritten letter with red thread and showed the backside of the letter so that viewers including my mother cannot read. The stitched text has been developed as a drawing element combined with a shape of a house to evoke a silence in a relationship.” There is a quiet consistency to her work that is comforting while inviting investigation.
As a star gazer and lover of the color blue, Mars Heejung Kim’s work was a knock out for me. The Eclipse series she is exhibiting references her love of the night sky and her desire to be an astronaut as a child growing up in Korea. These paintings resemble mandalas as a symbolic representation of the universe in Buddhism philosophy. On her website she explains “I had the opportunity of studying Tibetan Mandala paintings and I was fascinated by the patterns and symbols found in them. In my drawings, the concept of Karma plays an important role. It appears as the line that constantly meets and separates throughout the entire picture plane. That line represents the path of my life.” The intensity of the color in these watercolor images is heightned by overpainted white lines that shimmer like the night sky.
Ji Yong Kim’s playful nature radiates from his work. Truly a multifaceted artist, his work in the exhibit includes mixed media pieces, 3D wall sculpture and 3D animation. The work that captured my attention I knew referenced Buddhist mandalas but with great humor and unique materials. At the center of the large piece is a penis and breasts. Forever Young is in effect a paper collage, but in the most complex sense. Ji has created the paper textures and added glitter as the image is glued and built. The end result is a substantial piece that to me almost felt like leather. We talked about the construction of Tibetan mandalas, which I was fortunate enough to witness at the Freer Gallery in Washington, DC and how the glitter did references the sand used in that process.