Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Four colors of Korean contemporary art

Works of Gim Hong-sok, Moon Kyung-won and Jeon Joon-ho as a team, Lim Min-ouk and Yee Soo-kyung are on display at the “2012 Korea Artist Prize” at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province. The exhibit shows the current state of Korean contemporary art through Nov. 11. / Courtesy of NMOCA

From shards of ceramics glued together and a big teddy bear made from garbage bags to a video describing a detective pursuing the role of art and a fake news studio, five Korean artists over the age of 40 explore the meaning of contemporary art at the “2012 Korea Artist Prize” exhibition at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea (NMOCA) in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province.

The four selections for the 2012 Korea Artist Prize (KAP) — Gim Hong-sok, Moon Kyung-won and Jeon Joon-ho as a team, Yee Soo-kyung and Lim Min-ouk — are all active domestically and internationally. Their works are distinct but have one thing in common — they delve into the meaning of art.

The KAP is the NMOCA’s revamped version of the former Artist of the Year system to focus on contemporary Korean artists.

Co-hosted by the SBS Foundation, KAP received recommendations from 10 art experts and five international juries reviewed them and selected four. The finalists were urged to present new works, which they imagined but had not yet realized with support from the SBS Foundation.

Gim questions the social consensus and fixed idea on contemporary art in “People Objective — Wrong Interpretations.”

He presents the same pieces in three separate rooms themed “labor,” “metaphor” and “manner.” Different stories on the same artworks are delivered to the audience by trained docents who are actually part of Gim’s work.

“When artists make art, they are asked about the concept of the piece. However, it is difficult to define the meaning of the work in one way and I think there are layers of explanations — at least three layers for this exhibit,” Gim said.

Moon and Jeon, who presented co-project “News from Nowhere” at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany, this summer, offer “Voice of Metanoia — Two Perspectives.”

It is in line with their previous work, seeking the social role of art.

“This time, we have presented what we want to ask art in a synthetic way,” Moon said.

They brought posters from art biennales and triennials and removed all the information, leaving just color and shapes. Combined with moving mirror panels and wave patterns on a column, “the room reflects various artistic discourses going on in the world,” Jeon said.

Video piece “AVYAKTA” follows detective William Guest, who is sent from the future to investigate the role of art in society. Moon and Jeon’s “El Fin del Mundo,” a prequel to “AVYAKTA,” is also on show in the archive section.

Yee’s room is themed “Constellation Gemini.” She is well-known for her “Translated Vase” series and some 1,000 pieces of the ceramic works are on display at a dodecagonal pedestal in the center of the room. Some of them are in their original shape, while others are re-created after being shattered.

“Porcelain pieces begin from dirt and being a ceramic work could be stressful for the dirt. I put down the obsession to make something grandiose and the result came out like this,” the artist said.

Lim’s “The Possibility of the Half” brings problems in society such as redevelopment and the struggles of minorities, which are usually hidden from daily life.

The main piece looks like a big news studio, but interpreted in Lim’s way. She was inspired by people crying at the funeral for late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung and former South Korean President Park Chung-hee.

“Their sobbing made me feel like the nation is a huge theatrical stage and I subverted the idea of media,” Lim said. “This is a new news studio with solidarity.”

The exhibition is open through Nov. 11 and the winner will be announced later on in its run. Admission is 5,000 won. A docent program is available at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays and at 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends. Invited curator Kris Imants Ercums from the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, will give a lecture on “Ode to a Shape Shifter” on Saturday.

A digitalized version of the catalogue is available on iPad by searching for “NMoCA” in Apple’s App Store and interviews with the artists are also available. The catalogue, including the works for the 2012 Korea Artist Prize, will be updated in late September.

For more information, visit or call (02) 2188-6114.

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