Choi Jeong-Hwa, "Welcome"
Choi Jeong-Hwa, "Happy Happy"
Do Ho Suh, "Fallen Star 1/5"
Lynn Zelevansky, Christine Starkman, and Sun Jung Kim (curators) Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea / Los Angeles County Museum of Art
As a admirer of contemporary Korean literature (publisher of major Korean poet Ko Un) and given the large Korean population of my city, I wanted very much to love the new show of Korean artists at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, located across the street from my home and my nearby office. This show does in fact give some glimmers of excellent art.
The first piece of the show, Do Ho Suh's "Fallen Star 1/5" was a definite knock out, picturing a replica of his home in Seoul where the artist grew up that has crashed into the a Providence, Rhode Island apartment house where Suh lived in the early 1990s while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design. The apartment, split literary in half—apparently by the crash of the Korean home—is filled with miniature furniture, reading materials, clothing, kitchen utensils, etc. with which Suh surrounded himself, and as the viewer goes from window to window to peer into the home and its contents, he witnesses what Suh describes as an "exposure of his life." The collision of the two buildings, Shu argues, signifies less of a outright statement of cultural differences than it does a kind of Wizard of Oz-like tale about cultural change:
I was in the house, making my first fabric architectural piece. All of a
of a sudden, there was a tornado that took the building into the sky. I
didn't know where I was going, but then I saw the ocean and a bridge from
Seoul to New York, so I knew that the house was heading to the U.S.
I realized the house was going down soon, so I finished my fabric
piece to use it as a parachute. I got scared when I realized that the house
was slowing down and I couldn't see land. I decided to throw things away,
but there were so many things I was personally attached to. I made a list
of things I possessed and prioritized them. It gave me time to reflect on
entire life in that house. Then I crossed off things on the list. In the end, I
decided to throw out pretty much everything except what was essential to
parachute. The house started to come down and crash, but it had a semi-
soft landing. And that's how I feel. Culture shock didn't come as a shock
to me. It took a long time.
Accordingly, Shu's work is personalized, and given its great attention to detail, we recognize these houses as being objects of great personal love and beauty. Yet one cannot ignore the fact that not only has Shu had to deal with a kind of "cultural shock," but his home country is itself a house broken in two. A companion piece, made of translucent resin, presents a more idealized version of the specific, a kind of glowing white quartered house, which could presumably be reunited in various forms by rearranging the four carts on which it stands.
Gimhongsok's videos and large stuffed animals, including a Harvey-sized rabbit laid out on a pink sofa, "Bunny's Sofa," suggests yet another take on the crass commercialism of all things "cute," but in the end seems to lack the political bite it wants to suggest.