Contemporary Korean Art Exhibition- Andrew Garcia

At our very own museum there is an exhibition on contemporary Korean art. The CU Museum is a smaller exhibition, but it has much to offer. “Keeping It Real” contains many works of multi-media and multiple artists. When I went to the exhibition half of it was closed off, which was disappointing because I had wanted to see a couple pieces in the closed off area. Previously I had seen those works, and on that was very unique was an installation of two skeletons where one was chasing the other. It was interesting because the larger skeleton was in a pouncing position, and was suspended in the air by transparent string. I than realized the skeletons were a representation of one of my favorite childhood cartoons, Tom and Jerry. I do not remember the artist’s name, but this piece was memorable. I enjoyed the connection I had with the piece, but it changed my view on the cartoon when I viewed the piece. The skeletons had a frightening factor to them, which brought forth the reality of how violent the cartoon is. I enjoyed this piece, and I wish I could have seen it when I went last. There are many other works in the CU Museum which also interested me, which will be discussed in this paper.

During my visit at the CU Museum, I immediately noticed flowing stripes of paint streaming across the entrance to the museum. The artist of this piece is Sun K. Kwak, and it is titled “Untying Space.” The piece resembles a painting, and can easily be mistaken for a painting, which is actually the point the artist was trying to do. The medium is actually masking tape and vinyl bits. This has turned out to be the signature medium of Kwak, and is now a reoccurring medium in her works.  This piece resembles a mural, and is temporary. It has been compared to a temporary tattoo, because of how it can be peeled off of the wall. Kwak’s works are site specific which shows the connection of her work to the place she displays it. This piece resembles spontaneous ink paintings in East Asian abstract expressionism of the 1960’s. I like how this piece moves with the walls of the gallery. It almost feels like part of the gallery, and when focused on, it becomes overwhelming.

When I entered the exhibit the first piece that commands the attention of anyone who enters is a large Jaguar made of a variety of tires. The scale of the piece is the most powerful factor, and second would be the material it is made of. The tires make you wonder why the artist decided to use tires, and also what is the meaning behind the tires. Yong Ho Ji is the artist who created this piece titled “Jaguar 4.” He is well known for creating monstrous, grotesque hybrid creatures out of tires and metal. His purpose is to show a “prophetic, poetic, lucid statement about the dangers of our obsession with science, technology, and industrialization” according to the statement next to the piece. This takes center stage in the gallery, and allows for heavy interaction with it. It is not hung up on a wall or behind glass, it is in the middle of the exhibition, and cannot be avoided. This was by far my favorite piece of the museum.

There was also an arrangement of TVs along one of the walls of the gallery. The first TV is a 3D video, and is played in slow motion. Next to the 3D TV there is another TV screen with a similar video playing. The beginning of the video is a person holding a cup, and then slowly common toys begin to fall onto the person’s hands and cup. This causes the cup to break and the person to react to the pain of the toys breaking and spilling the drink, and also the shock of the something unexpected happening to them. There are multiple videos that play one after another, each with a different person and a different cup full of a variety of liquids. This piece is titled “Reality Test” and is part of the “Crash Reality Test Series” by Kiwon Shin. Shin was inspired by people in her life who she has lost from car accidents. Knowing this adds tone to the piece, and makes the viewer realize what Shin is trying to reveal about her work. Shin is displaying the reaction people have with small accidents, and amplifies them by slowing down the speed of the toys hitting the cups. It brings up how something small can cause a powerful reaction, and makes you wonder how powerful of a reaction a car crash can cause.  I particularly enjoyed this piece because of how personal Shin made it; it creates an emotional piece, and allows the viewer to relate to what she has experienced.

Another piece by Kiwon Shin titled “Approach to Truth-Atro Boy” is on another TV on the same wall as the other works by her. This video is showing a grinder which is grinding down a space man toy. However, the video is playing is slow motion, backwards. The space man toy is actually starting off as a pile of dust, than at the end of the video it is back to brand new because the grinder has not started to grind it down yet.  This is an interesting method in displaying the process of something being destroyed, is watching it in reverse. If glanced at quickly, it would be easy to mistake this video for only showing the destruction of the toy. Shin wanted the viewer to realize the power of narcissistic desires people have towards common consumer goods. She showed respect for the items as well, by adding value to them when they are being destroyed. Shin wanted this piece to relate to the biblical phrase “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” which directly correlates to this piece, both literally and metaphorically. The idea of birth to death is shown with this piece, and the biblical quote adds to power of this piece.

On the adjacent wall of the TV screens by Kiwon Shin, is another series of works “Adolescence #3, #8, #10, #12, #17, #1, #19” by Yeondoo Jung. This series is of photographs includes the graduate students of the art and art history departments of the University of Colorado at Boulder.  I found my teaching assistant for my art history two class in the second photo on the wall. Jung wanted to represent his own life in snap shots of memories. He had the graduate students hike up to the woods, and stage the photographs. He even added lighting to the piece in places where he wanted. The lighting he used is very similar to the work of Carvaggio, which featured darker scenes with light illuminating certain parts of the piece he wanted emphasis on. This is what Jung did to his photographs, was add emphasis on the people within the piece, and what they were doing. Jung’s personal memories may be considered kitsch, but he managed to convey his own memories of joyful events which have happened in his past.

Jaye Rhee used a five channel full HD digital video installation on LED TV monitors in her piece titled “Cherry Blossom.” Based off of the title alone, the image people paint in their minds is something beautiful. Rhee challenges this common assumption by creating a piece with chewed up pieces of bubble gum being spit out by multiple people. The wads of bubble gum are supposed to represent flower petals, and as you gaze at the multiple screens the true medium of the petals is realized. This truth shocks the viewer, and changes the viewer’s thoughts on the piece. Rhee wanted to ruin the beautiful objects with wads of gum worn down by saliva and teeth marks of many different individuals.

I enjoyed this exhibit for many reasons. The first being the unique choices of mediums each of the artists used and manipulated to create their works. It was refreshing to see some of these artists take advantage of modern technology, like the TV screens and 3D TVs, to display their works. Film is a relatively new form of art, and these artists took that idea to the next level. Second, I enjoyed how each of these artists created their works with the purpose of engaging the viewers. With the user having to use 3D glasses to properly see the piece, to placing a giant Jaguar in the middle of the exhibit forcing people to move around it. I enjoy artwork that steps away from the norm, and grabs your attention. I end up better understanding the piece and connecting with the artist. The third reason why I enjoyed this exhibit is how some of the works brought out the harsh realities of everyday life. How children have become dependent on materialistic items to horrific accidents tearing people from our lives. These works pack a lot of strong emotions within them, and make the viewer reflect on their own lives, and challenge their own perspectives and values on life. Any form of artwork which makes you reflect on yourself contains a powerful message which makes the piece successful. This exhibition is unique, and should be shared with everyone. The Korean artists have brought together everyone’s values, and created a method of understanding life and all of its realities.

2 Responses

  1. I also really liked the “Crash Reality Test” videos. I really
    Iked how the artist took something simple, filmed it, then slowed it down. It gave us time to really take in the event and the reaction of the person. I liked how you mentioned that it showed how something so small could cause such a huge reaction. Great exhibition review.

  2. I never got to see the piece with the skeletons at the exhibition but from your description, it sounded like a humorous and fascinating piece. I was curious how the work of Sun K. Kwak related to Asian art in the 1960’s, especially Korean art from the 1960s. You mentioned it related to this type of art, but you didn’t give me any other artists and I’m curious. On another note, this piece also uses duct tape, if you look closely, which I noticed as I trailed my fingers along the wall. What you mentioned about Adolescence was something I noticed as well, relating to how the artist lit the piece up. It was clear you put thought into this paper, nice job!

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