Exhibition Review

Brittney Johnson

ARTH 3539

Exhibition Review

Keeping It Real


“Keeping It Real” is a show at the University of Colorado Art Museum (CUAM) focused on “Korean artists in the age of multi-media representation.”[1]  There are several different types of art in the show including photography, video, sculpture, and other 3-dimensional works that are combined with video projection.  This reflects the diversity of Korean art which available to museums, galleries, and private collectors.[2]  The show seems to have a theme of transiency but also of playing reality off fantasy.

There are several videos featured in the show.  One of the artists featured is Kiwoun Shin and his series “Reality Test”.  This artist has embraced 3D video but does not use it in all cases; only one of his works here is presented in 3D.  This video is one of the “Reality Test” series, which is appropriate to the 3D medium as it is focused on the idea of the crash test.  He has de-standardized the crash test, which is normally controlled in order to analyze the results.  The shock of the objects hitting the full glasses being held by unsuspecting individuals is more visually appealing in 3D compared to another video from this series that is shown in 2D.  While both videos convey the shock of a car accident and the uncontrollable nature of an accident outside of a controlled crash test, the 3D video makes the impact seem even more violent.

Kiwoun Shin has a third video in the show, which is very different from the other two, and not part of his “Reality Test” Series.  The third video is from a series concerned with consumerism, and in particular how it is affecting his native culture.  Kiwoun takes an Astro Boy figurine and grounds it to dust in his “Approach to the Truth” video.  In an ironic twist, he plays Louis Armstrong’s popular “It’s A Wonderful World” in the background.  These three action videos are in physical and emotional opposition to Jay Rhee’s “Cherry Blossom” video, which has falling flower petals over five screens.  They are not, however, flower petals but chewed gum being spit out.  Effectively Jay Rhee is playing with the viewer’s assumption by creating an illusion; the only give-away being the discordant notes every time the gum hits the floor.

There are two walls with photographs in the same gallery space with the videos.  The larger wall is dedicated to Yeondoo Jung’s “Adolescence” series.  It is appropriate for the show because it features CU students camping, but it does not seem to fit with the theme of the rest of the show.  There does not seem to be a concern with transiency, illusion, or reality.  There is a second Yeondoo Jung in the rear video gallery entitled “Documentary Nostalgia” where he plays with this idea of fiction vs reality.  He achieves believable scenery but at the same time destroys it since the viewer sees the stagehands moving and creating the sets.  The video seems integral to the overall theme of the exhibition.

The other wall in the gallery is a still photograph paired with a video from Jay Rhee’s “Swan, Polar Bear, Niagara”.  Jay Rhee plays with the illusion of “the ‘real fake’” as she dresses herself up in the guise of a polar bear and swims in front of a mural with polar bears on it.  She interacts with the mural, and it is clear this is her inspiration, making it a site and action specific artwork.  The inclusion of the video enhances the still next to it, for without the context of the video, the single image would seem rather out of place.

The three-dimensional works in the show are intriguing.  In the first gallery, there is one statue, which is Yong-ho Ji’s “Jaguar”.  It is a stealthy black feline composed of black rubber from tires.  It is large, imposing, and unexpected.  It also interacts in an interesting way with “Feliscatus Animatus and Mus Animatus” by Hyungkoo Lee.  Fondly nicknamed “Tom and Jerry”, the piece features sculpted bones of a cat and mouse.  The cat, which looks like it is about to pounce, is hanging from the ceiling on nearly invisible wires.  The mouse looks like it is running away- it is also elevated into space slightly, much like his cartoon counterpart would look.  The illusion is achieved through minimal and nearly invisible supports, dark lighting, and a black wall and floors.  Spotlighting is used to provide just enough light for visibility.  I also feel the light works with the circumambulation of the viewer to provide additional movement to the piece.

Also in the rear gallery is a unique piece, entitled “Star Pattern Shirt” by Kyung Woo Han.  What makes this piece so neat is that the viewer is at first not aware of what they are looking at.  On the wall is projected an American flag and on the floor, at varying heights and distances, are several 3-dimensional objects.  The objects seem random, in this case composed of white paper, red and white blocks, red lockers, and a star patterned shirt.  While the objects appear to be random in relation to the piece and to each other, they end up projecting a cohesive image on the wall; an image you would not expect from a Korean artist.  There are two other 3-dimensional works in the space, both composed of blocks casting shadows.  In one piece, the image is projected through the blocks and onto a wall and in the other, the light is projecting into a sculpted box.  Both are the same artist, Shin-il Kim, so there is a similar idea at work here but the pieces do feel different.

The largest piece in the building is Sun Kwak’s “Untying Space”.  It begins in the entryway of CUAM and continues into the first gallery space.  It is composed of black masking tape and vinyl on the white walls; the contrast is stark and attractive.  It is a site-specific artwork, which took approximately one month to complete.  The walls were custom built for the space and in the gallery the wall is slightly waved which adds texture and visual interest to the piece.  The design on the walls looks almost like abstract expressionism.  This is not an impetuous piece and lots of time and planning as well as the use of assistants and machinery went into the creation.

The exhibition is small but does an effective job at demonstrating the diversity that is present in Korean techniques and visions, while still keeping a unifying theme throughout.  The eight artists presented in the show are in varying stages of their careers but all seem to possess a desire to understand the new world they live in as Koreans.  It is stimulating to see the response of the Koreans to their changing world and, in some cases, their interaction with, and response to the impact of, our culture.  I especially enjoyed the focus on the fantasy/reality juxtaposition, whether that is simply the material used or the presented work itself.


Kolesnikov-Jessop, Sonia. “Korean art emerges from China’s shadow” The New York Times, Oct. 10, 2008. March 27, 2012.  <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/10/arts/10iht-rcartkor.1.16840287.html?pagewanted=all>.

University of Colorado Art Museum. “Keeping it Real.”  Web.  27 March 2012.  <http://cuartmuseum.colorado.edu/exhibition/keeping-it-real-korean-artists-in-the-age-of-multi-%C2%ADmedia-representation/>.

Wall text/object labels, Keeping it Real, University of Colorado Boulder Art Museum, Colorado.


One Response

  1. Brittney, I particularly enjoyed your paper due to your captivating use of language, especially descriptions. I am ashamed to say that I have never been to CU’s Art Museum, however after reading your paper would definitely love to go. I would really like to see the “Reality Test” series- I have not seen many video pieces and it sounds very interesting. I would also like to see “Tom and Jerry,” in particular. Also, good job in including your sources from outside research. Great job on your paper!

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