LACMA PRESENTS FIRST U.S. EXHIBITION OF CONTEMPORARY KOREAN ART IN NEARLY TWO DECADES
Works by Kimsooja, Do Ho Suh, Choi Jeong-Hwa, and others featured.
Los Angeles—The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents the first major museum exhibition in the continental United States in almost two decades to focus on contemporary art from South Korea. Organized by LACMA and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea features a generation of artists who have emerged since the mid-1980s—some well-known and others on the brink of such recognition—all of whom work on the cutting-edge of international art trends and within a distinctly Korean context: Bahc Yiso, Choi Jeong-Hwa,
Gimhongsok, Jeon Joonho, Kim Beom, Kimsooja, Koo Jeong-A, Minouk Lim, Jooyeon Park, Do Ho Suh, Haegue Yang and the collaborative, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries (family names are in bold). Your Bright Future (a deliberately ambiguous title taken from a sculpture by Bahc Yiso) will represent each artist through a large-scale installation or substantial body of work, including site-specific installations, video art, computer animation, and sculpture. The exhibition will premiere at LACMA, which has the most comprehensive collection of traditional Korean art outside of Korea and Japan, from June 28 through September 20, 2009. The show will then travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, November 22, 2009 through February 14, 2010.
"Korea has a vibrant and sophisticated contemporary art scene that is still relatively unknown in the United States," said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. "LACMA is thrilled to bring this insightful exhibition to Los Angeles—the largest Korean community outside of Korea—particularly as we reopen the museum's Korean art galleries, providing our visitors both traditional and contemporary offerings of Korean art."
Peter C. Marzio, director of the MFAH, commented, "The impetus for this landmark exhibition dates back to my revelatory first trip to Seoul in 2004. Four years and countless studio visits later, curators Christine Starkman and Lynn Zelevansky have opened an entirely new perspective on the extraordinary art being made by a generation of Korean artists. We are enormously pleased to have partnered with LACMA on this initiative."
The contemporary art scene in Korea has remained relatively unexplored in the West despite its vibrancy during the last two decades. Throughout the 1980s, Korean artists became increasingly exposed to international art trends. With the proliferation of world-wide exhibitions and biennials in the 1990s, they increasingly began to travel, live, and exhibit abroad. While learning to communicate deftly in an international visual language, Korean artists also respond to their own personal experiences and their work reflects the culture out of which they emerged. The artists in Your Bright Future came of age amid political turmoil and increased freedoms in their small but increasingly prosperous country. Their experience has produced work that focuses, often humorously, on the ephemeral nature of life, time, and identity, as well as on the limitations of communication across languages, cultures, and generations. Each has made presence, absence, and change the center of their work.
Gimhongsok and Jeon Joonho address South Korea's place in the world, as well as the complex relationship among the U.S., North Korea, and South Korea. Gimhongsok's video projection G5 (2004), features five Koreans singing a heartfelt rendition of the national anthem of one of the G5 countries (U.S., United Kingdom, France, Japan, Germany) in Korean. Though an initial response may be amusement at the discordance of hearing familiar, patriotic tunes sung in a foreign language, the question arises whether the singers are somehow subservient to the powerful nations whose songs they sing. In a more sober work, Jeon Joonho focuses on the division of North and South Korea in Statue of Brothers (2008–9), an installation inspired by a story taken from a famous public memorial of two brothers fighting on different sides of the Korean War.
Other artists in the exhibition examine the sociological effects of Korea's rapid modernization. In his work, Do Ho Suh compares the formal languages of Eastern and Western architecture with the understanding that differences in architecture reveal different social structures. In 1994, Suh began making "fabric architecture," using filmy, translucent textiles like silk and nylon to create ghostly and fragile renderings of his childhood home that evoke homesickness and the sense of loss. These works, often large-scale installations, meld seeming opposites, like the notions of inside and outside, personal and public, past and present. In Fallen Star, 1/5 (2008), Suh shows a violent collision involving a traditional Korean house and the building housing the first apartment the artist rented in the U.S.
Kim Beom questions Korean mass media in Untitled (News) (2002), for which he edited together numerous television news broadcasts in clips short enough to alter what the reporters were saying. Instead of reporting on events of the day, these familiar figures spout statements that vacillate between the inane and poignant. Using humor, the work questions whether the actual words of such television personalities are more enlightening than the ones that Kim has put in their mouths. Minouk Lim's three-channel DVD projection Wrong Question (2006) records an anonymous taxi driver who does not understand the progressive elements of South Korean society, and conflates pro-democracy and pro-communist factions. On the adjacent screen is Lim's young daughter, who dreams of her mother staying home instead of
leaving to work. Her grandfather instructs her instead to say, "I'll be a great painter like Mom." "What's a painter?" the child asks. The two seem to be participating in different conversations—the products of radically divergent life experiences.
Kimsooja reflects upon gender issues from a uniquely Korean perspective. Early in her career, the use of sewing and traditional Korean textiles—usually associated with women's work—allowed her to explore the role of family and nature of identity. Today she melds masculine and feminine qualities in the meditative video works for which she is best known. They record her performances on the streets of cities all over the world. In them, she is still, seen from the back, while oceans of humanity move around her.
The works of Haegue Yang and Koo Jeong-A address what lies on the periphery of everyday experience, impermanent traces of human existence, and the hidden or ephemeral. Yang's Storage Piece (2004), is composed of crated and wrapped works by the artist. Unsold, the pieces were returned to her after an exhibition; with a show coming up and no space to store her old pieces, she decided to exhibit them wrapped. The work is amusing, but also rooted in a genuine complaint regarding the accumulation of artwork, which artists frequently cannot afford to store. Too often it takes over their studios—a reminder of the failure to sell. Like Yang, Koo Jeong-A is concerned with easily overlooked objects and situations, frequently photographing mundane environments; creating drawings that are so minimal in their physicality that they become elusive; and installing tiny sculptures high on a wall or low in a corner.
Several artists in the exhibition create works that address language and questions related to translation. Web artists Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries combine words in different languages with their own sound compositions in Flash animations that pulse on the screen with great rapidity. Also interested in the language of advertising and popular culture, Choi Jeong-Hwa applied a large number of vertical advertising banners, commonly found on the sides of buildings throughout Korea, to the exterior of Charlottenberg Exhibition Hall in Copenhagen (2005). Jooyeon Park, the youngest artist in the exhibition, uses written words, as well as performance, video, photography, found objects, and sculpture to stress the fragility of existence. She believes language is an inadequate communication system and often creates works by jumbling found texts.
Featuring thirty-four major works and installations, Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea is curated by Lynn Zelevansky, LACMA's Terri and Michael Smooke Curator and Department Head of Contemporary Art; Christine Starkman, MFAH Curator of Asian Art; and Sunjung Kim, Director of Samuso: Space for Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea.
Your Bright Future will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog containing essays by Korean and U.S. specialists. Included are interviews with each of the artists, and a chronology that examines in depth developments in the South Korean art world from 1945 to the present, capturing a portion of art history that has never before been recorded in such detail. The catalog will be available for purchase at LACMA's Gift
Korean Art at LACMA
LACMA has long been a museum dedicated to enriching and leading the public dialogue about Korean art and culture. Responding to the large Korean community in Southern California as well as visitors from all over the world, LACMA has accelerated efforts to expand its Korean collection and programming. Today the collection is recognized to be the most comprehensive outside of Korea and Japan. In 1999, the museum opened the largest suite of galleries devoted to Korean Art in the United States. Future plans include a significantly larger permanent Korean art gallery expected to open in fall 2009.
This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in association with SAMUSO: Space for Contemporary Art, Seoul. It is made possible by grants from The Korea Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc., and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Los Angeles presentation of Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea is made possible by Hanjin Shipping Co., Ltd. Additional support was provided by LACMA's Wallis Annenberg Director's Endowment Fund.
Presented by Hanjin Shipping
Since its inception in 1965, LACMA has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography—and represent Los Angeles' uniquely diverse population. Today, the museum features particularly strong collections of Asian, Latin American, European, and American art, as well as a new contemporary museum on its campus, BCAM. With this expanded space for contemporary art, innovative collaborations with artists, and an ongoing transformation project, LACMA is creating a truly modern lens through which to view its rich encyclopedic collection.
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