Through March 13, 2016, Seattle’s Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park hosts a major exhibition featuring the work of six contemporary Korean artists; “Paradox of Place” addresses important issues in Korean politics and society. Working in photography, video, mixed-media installations, and cutting edge 3D-printed sculptures, the artists present their personal perspectives on these topics.
Nearly filling the entire first gallery, Thousands by Yee Sookyung comprises a thousand broken and deformed pieces of traditional pale green ceramics–especially partial teapots–carefully arranged on a giant white platform. In the next gallery, Yang Haegue’s Female Natives abandons any hint of tradition for a more retro or campy effect with its five “anthropomorphic” sculptures composed of metal stands hung with lights, heavy electric cords, artificial flowers and macrame. Much more successful is Yang’s Gymnastics of the Foldables, fifteen photos of a white metal clothes rack posed in the gestures of a physical exercise: a visual delight of lively geometric shapes.
StrAnge Balls, by Noh Suntag, is a selection from a series of 100 eerie black and white photos in which the same enigmatic spherical structure appears in an agricultural landscape, sometimes resembling a golf ball, sometimes the full moon, sometimes a water tower. The unsettling atmosphere of the photos is reinforced when we learn that the “ball” is a high capacity radar installed in the DMZ by the US military.
Another piece that profits from learning its background, Jung Yeondoo’s Bewitched features huge color photos in before and after pairs, with the first showing a person in his or her ordinary environment, and the second showing the person in the same pose but now inside his or her fantasy, so a fast food worker moping a floor morphs into a polar explorer.
Part of Lim Minouk’s giant installation The Possibility of Half includes side by side media footage of mourners at the funerals of North Korea’s Kim Jung-il and South Korea’s Park Chung-hee, as well as two screens showing their funeral orations. In both cases, the images and words are strikingly similar.
Perhaps the most stunning (and technologically bewildering) is Lee Yongbaek’s Angel-Soldier. A projection of thousands of blossoms fills the wall, and slowly, almost imperceptibly, soldiers in blossom camouflaged uniforms, holding long guns, move through the projection, merging with it, then shifting over and over. The effect is beautiful and sinister.