Art Review: Three Young Artists from Korea
By John McGee
eat up Sora Kim's Cracker Lounge (2002)
The third-graders are in heaven. They're lounging like sultans
on mounds of floor pillows scattered over a pink carpet, snacking on an
endless supply of shrimp chips and Pocky and watching soap operas on flat
screen TVs. Hanging chandeliers made of clear, cast-plastic crackers and
chips complete the decadent Candyland scene. Like Pinocchio's fate,
you expect them to turn into donkeys any moment. So kids, do you like
this exhibition? "Suki!" Why? "Okashi-yama!"
The okashi-yama (mountain of sweets) is a landslide of Korean and Japanese
rice crackers, potato chips, cookies and other treats piled six feet high
against the back wall and sloping down to the floor of MDS/G Gallery in
Visitors are encouraged to indulge. Around 3:30pm on school days, local
kids stop by and mine deep into the unstable grade to find their favorite
spicy kimchi chips or choco-pies before packs of vegetable crisps can
slip down and bury them.
Yi-Chul Shin, Gender—Taxidermy
of Image, 2002, clay, wire, wax, wood.
Artist Sora Kim is the life of this art party. She installed the red,
pink, and patterned brown carpet strips, threw in muted-tone pillows,
coordinated the Felix Gonzalez-Torres-esque cascade of Crunkies, and,
should you get thirsty, installed a Coke machine (though it's not
Korean is kool in Tokyo's galleries and museums now, and Kim is
one of the three artists in a show looking at the new diverse work of
young Korean contemporary artists.
Kim, 37, who built an igloo out of electrical appliances in last year's
"My Home is Yours, Your Home is Mine" show at Tokyo Opera
City Gallery, deals with concepts of gift-giving and forced social interaction
between otherwise strangers (concepts also employed by Thai artist Rirkrit
The work of the two other artists is less rambunctious. Yi-Chul Shin's
clay and wire bio-morphic sculptures—skeletal crayfish, pods with
flagellating appendages—are partially submerged in pools of wax
inside wooden boxes. Shin, 38, says the shapes, which are similar to Lee
Bul's organic cyborg creatures, explicitly reference sexual organs
(a gallery attendant explains this to the schoolkids). The bilateral symmetry
and vaguely suggestive forms could be read as male and female genitalia,
or, just as likely, plankton.
Haiyoung Suh, Brick
Puzzle, 2002, black tape and silkscreen on black mirror.
Shin says that he wants to address the difference between sex (biological)
and gender (social), positing humans as more than just instinctual, reckless
animals driven by selfish hormones. In another piece, Shin cut similar,
but much larger two-dimensional shapes out of rainbow tape and stuck them
high on the gallery windows.
Haiyoung Suh, 33, used black tape to wrap two-dimensional angled brick
walls around the paper tube columns forming the gallery's interior
divider. Applied to flat walls, the tape creates illusions of perspective.
On these curved surfaces however, the brick effects are interrupted and
warped. Suh also silk-screened brick motifs onto six square black mirrors.
Curator Kyung-Hwan Won says that young Korean artists are currently processing
a chaotic influx of ideas from around the world, giving Korean contemporary
art a "rather confusing" look. This show effectively introduces
some of these different trajectories, but it leaves you feeling like the
kids who eat too much of Kim's work—a little giddy, but
Fashion designer Issey Miyake started MDS/G (Miyake Design Studio/Gallery)
as a gallery space in the Shigeru Ban-designed building in 2000. Their
three to four shows a year, usually organized by Miyake, have included
LA artist Tim Hawkinson and industrial designers from the Royal College
of Art in London.
Until July 13. Yoyogi-Uehara stn (Chiyoda, Odakyu lines). Ohyamacho 36-18,
Shibuya-ku. Tue-Sat 1pm-7pm. Tel: 03-3481-6711.
Photo credit: Yasuaki Yoshinaga