[Korean Artists of Note] Layered works by artist Kim Sung-hwan grow organically

[Korean Artists of Note] Layered works by artist Kim Sung-hwan grow organically

Kim Sung-hwan poses next to his video installation “Washing Brain and Corn” at Barakat Contemporary in Samcheong-dong, Seoul on August 22. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

This is the last in a six-part series highlighting the next generation of Korean artists active on the international art scene.–Ed.

Clicking through artist Kim Sung-hwan’s website is like searching through an archive of materials that seem somehow relevant to each other, only their connections aren’t quite apparent. Each click yields yet another interesting material – a photo of a paragraph from a book, a black and white photo that captures a historical moment, the artist’s own drawings and videos.

The site seems to function as a repository of Kim’s research on topics that interest her, which invariably means they will be turned into art in one form or another. Just read a few sentences marked with a Post-it marker to arouse his curiosity. In what context was this said, observed or written? That’s enough to make you want to be a detective on your own. It also creates anticipation for how Kim will bring them together in an organic piece of work.

An exhibition of his works, ‘Sung Hwan Kim: Night Crazing’, which runs until October 30 at Barakat Contemporary in Samcheong-dong, Seoul, is an opportunity to see how this polymath artist takes a subject and develops it, adding layers and branches.

The exhibition, the artist’s largest solo exhibition in Seoul in eight years, is a mixed-media installation anchored by two films – “Washing Brain and Corn” (2010) and “Love Before Bond” (2017).

“Washing Brain and Corn” was originally a video and drawings on the wall that have since expanded architecturally. During its broadcast in Munich, Germany, an award-winning experimental radio play was added. In Basel, Switzerland, a book was added. The work was shown in its full iteration at Tanks at Tate Modern in London, commissioned for the opening of the new space in 2012.

“Night Crazing 03” (2022) (Courtesy of the artist and Barakat Contemporary)

Kim reconfigures the placement of her pieces for each exhibition space, meaning her shows are never the same. The current Barakat Contemporary exhibition ran for about a month, with detail-oriented Kim on site daily.

Virtually everything in the Barakat Contemporary space is Kim’s work – from videos, drawings and collages to lighting and carpeting. Music is an integral part of the exhibit, and on August 30, David Michael DiGregorio, aka “dogr,” gave a performance of original songs that expand on Kim’s visual works. A chant from “Na-neun gong-san-dang-i-silh-eo-yo,” a piece that stems from “Washing Brain and Corn,” was performed by DiGregorio as he strolled among the audience.

Another piece that grows organically is “Love Before Bond,” which premiered at the 2017 Venice Biennale. Shown for the first time in Korea, it was a piece that was very much from the moment it first appeared. was created and still resonates, an example of how Kim seems to have feelers for the social and historical milieu. The work emerged during the era of the Black Lives Matter movement and amid calls for reparations for slavery in the United States.

The film was modeled after American author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” a non-fiction book in the form of a letter from the author to his son, Kim explained in an interview. with The Korea Herald at Barakat Contemporary on August 22. Coates’ work, in turn, adopted the structure of James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time”. Kim, who read all of Baldwin’s books for the film, layers different eras of history, expanding her work vertically and horizontally while exploring the theme through different mediums.

Night Crazing, installation view, Barakat Contemporary, 2022 (Barakat Contemporary)

Night Crazing, installation view, Barakat Contemporary, 2022 (Barakat Contemporary)

The boy’s body sprawled on the ground filmed from above alludes to racial violence while the sound of a girl shouting “Apologize” in different voices seems to represent the collective voices of apology for wrongs committed. That voice is screaming “I deserve an apology,” Kim pointed out.

Kim’s latest work in progress will be showcased at this year’s Busan Biennale, which will take place from September 3 to November 6 in Busan. “A Record of Drifting Across the Sea” is part of a series started in 2017 that explores the theme of immigration, yet another hot topic today.

The history of immigration to Hawaii, including Korean immigration to the island in the early 20th century, will be presented alongside sculptures, drawings and photographs.

“What he presents in Busan is an archive that expresses the strangeness of immigrants,” said Kim Hae-ju, artistic director of the Busan Biennale.

Asked about the importance of identity in his works, he said that identity is about “the way people approach the border. Clearly defined in relation to a marsh.

New York-based Kim, who lived in Hawaii for the project, researching and documenting materials, said of the work, “It’s about reconfiguring what was once the frontier.

His residency in Hawaii also produces material related to the history, culture, and struggles of Hawaii’s Indigenous peoples, as he conducts extensive research on the island and immigration history. And they are superimposed in the current long-term project.

“It delves into the story and offers a sensory interpretation,” said art director Kim. “His works are very unique in that he turns things into art that cannot be put into words.”

Kim Sung-hwan poses next to his video installation work

Kim Sung-hwan poses next to his video installation “Washing Brain and Corn” at Barakat Contemporary in Samcheong-dong, Seoul on August 22. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Kim, who studied architecture at Seoul National University for a year, graduated from Williams College in the United States, where he majored in mathematics and art, and received a master of science in studies. visuals at MIT.

A recipient of the 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Kim has exhibited work at major art institutions around the world, including the solo exhibition ‘Sung Hwan Kim’s Temper Clay’ at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2021, “The Tanks Commission: Sung Hwan Kim” at Tanks at Tate Modern in London in 2012 and “Line Wall” at Kunsthalle Basel in Basel, Switzerland in 2011.

By Kim Hoo-ran ([email protected])

Christopher S. Washington