Capturing a time of change: 3 Korean artists at Tina Kim Gallery

The exhibition “Two Hours” features painting, sculpture, video and mixed media works by Yiso Bahc, Seoyoung Chung and Beom Kim. Art Radar takes a look at these significant members of South Korea’s contemporary art scene.
On view from 22 September to 29 October 2016 at Tina Kim Gallery in New York, “Two Hours” is an exhibition featuring South Korean artists. Curated by Hyunjin Kim, the 42 works span a period of dramatic political change between the late 1990s and the early 2000s.
The title of the exhibition is based on Yiso Bahc’s 2002 video work that documents the setting sun over the span of two hours. It is a piece that contemplates the concept of time and by focusing on gradual change, the artwork frames the uncertainty we live with in our daily lives. This uncertainty is a thread throughout all the works, as the artists grapple with what it means to be an artist in Korea at the turn of the century.
After traveling overseas, each of the artists returned to Korea in the 1990s. They brought back with them a global perspective, which they merged with the complexities and particularities of Korean society. For example, they experimented across media, instead of producing works in a signature style or medium, and they drew in popular Korean idioms such as materiality. They each developed a voice that is both analytical of and adaptable to their mixed influences. As the press release states,
The artists also employed dark humour in their works to satirise society’s focus on creating grand narratives and challenge the irrationality and unethicality that they endured in their everyday lives.
Yiso Bahc obtained his BFA in Painting from Hongik University in Seoul in 1981 and moved to New York shortly afterward, where he lived for 15 years. After his return to Korea in the late 1990s, he participated in numerous art biennials and exhibitions across Asia, Europe and the USA, increasingly attracting international attention. Bahc connected local Korean idioms with Western art theories, focusing on finding a way to articulate art history in South Korea in a way that was more relevant for the local and regional context. His artworks are imbued with a sharp sense of humour that reveals both the absurdity of consumer culture as well as the poetic fragility of those living on the margins of an industrial society.
Seoyoung Chung received her BFA and MFA in Sculpture from the Seoul National University School of Art before undertaking research at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart, Germany. She has been awarded the Baden-Württemberg Art Foundation grant as well as the Kim Se-jung Young Artist Prize. She has participated in events such as the 4th Gwangju Biennale (2002), the 50th Venice Biennale (Korean Pavilion, 2003), the 7th Gwangju Biennale, Countdown (Culture Station Seoul 284, 2011), “Deoksu Palace Project” (Deoksu Palace Art Museum, 2012) and “Playtime: The Waiting Room of Episteme” (Culture Station Seoul 284, 2012). Chung works through various genres, including sculpture, installation, drawing and performance. She often uses cheap, Korean-made construction materials such as styrofoam, linoleum, lumber and plywood in order to critique Korea’s manufacturing boom. Her carbon paper drawing series (1996-2000), for example, combines edited images of new factories and cheap building materials to comment on the changes in an urban environment situated in a culture of rapid manufacturing.
Beom Kim initially studied in Seoul National University, before completing an MFA at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1991. He moved back to Korea in 1997, but has continued to exhibit extensively overseas. His work has been included in international exhibitions such as the 2003 Istanbul Biennial, the 2005 Venice Biennale, Media City Seoul2010 and the 9th Gwangju Biennale. Kim works in drawings, sculptures, installations, videos and artist books. He often examines everyday objects through a new lens, transforming them in order to investigate their possibilities as well as revealing the limitations of human visual perception. He incorporates whimsical humour, for example, in the how-to guidebook The Art of Transformation (1997) he instructs readers on how they can transform themselves into a tree or a rock.
The exhibition gives insight into contemporary Korean art through three diverse perspectives, each drawing on humour, diverse cultural influences and a detailed look at the world around us.
Claire Wilson

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