Art Review: Three Young Artists from Korea

By John McGee
Visitors really 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 Yoyogi-Uehara.

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 free).
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 Tiravanija).

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 unsatisfied.

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.

MDS/G
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

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The Prado Paintings

ART ARCHIVE:
449: Between Reality and Dreams: 19th Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum
448: Quobo: Art in Berlin 1989-99
447: Scandinavian Landscape Painting in the 19th Century
446: Peter Bellars: Par for the Course
445: Doug Aitken: New Ocean
444: Andrea Zittel: A-Z Garments Series
443: Sebastiao Salgado: Exodus
442: Dumb Type: Voyages
441: Tadanori Yokoo: All Things in the Universe
440: Jean-Marc Bustamante: Private Crossing
439: Joan Miro : 1918-1945
438: Modern Paintings of Mongolia
437: Manit Sriwanichpoom: Bangkok in Pink
436: French Drawings from the British Museum: From Fontainebleau to Versailles
435: Muneteru Ujino: Japan Series
434: Photography Today 2: Site/Sight
433: Rirkrit Tiravanija and Raymond Pettibon
432: Three Young Artists from Korea
431: Dynastic Heritage of Korea
430: Seoul Pop
429: Dreams & Goals
428: Since Godzilla
427: Yoshihiro Suda + Tetsuya Nakamura: Un Monde Revé de la Main
426: GA Houses Project 2002
425: Sesshu: 500th Anniversary
424: Luis Barragan: The Quiet Revolution
423: The Mori Arts Center/Young Video Artists Initiative
422: The Adventures of Tintin
421: Session - Super Eccentric of Japan's Warring States Period
420: Jorge Pardo
419: Artists Without Borders
418: Dennis Hollingsworth
417: Masterworks from the Prado Museum
416: JAM: Tokyo-London
415: Digital Beauties
414: Arika Someya
413: MOMAT
412: NW House
411: Mariko Mori
410: Sonia Delaunay
409: Buckminster Fuller
408: Wusheng Wang
407: Tokyo Architecture #2
406: Tokyo Architecture #1
405: The Art Ahead
404: Table Manners
403: Tom Sanford at Tomoya Saito Gallery
402: Nambanga: An Anthology of World Manga
401: Masterworks from MoMA
400: Spencer Tunick: Nude Adrift

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