Thursday, May 24, 2012

Korea Cute and Insa-dong

Today began with a short bus (van) ride to Insa-dong to check out some art. After ducking in many alley ways covered in street sellers and shops we see everywhere else, mindy and I finally found our street in Seoul. The road is lined with galleries and museums showing everything from pottery and fiber to paintings and post modern as well as some restaurants and shops with all things tiny cute and collectible.

We cruised up one side of the road and found the French graffiti catMonsieur Chat, on the side of a door in an alley way, then found a bigger stick-on on the window of an art center.

We saw 2 stand out shows. One by Yim Ja-hyuk and another by Lee Kwang Young.

(photos via Lee Hwaik Gallery)

Yim's work was assembled paper cutouts in what I consider to be the typical Korean color palette of bright cheerful colors that don't look cheap the way Damien Hirst's do. They were mostly simple everyday landscapes done in a quiet simplicity that showed off the technique and the materials used. They were at once stunning and cute, creating an aesthetic that was entirely approachable and joyful in their honesty even though several worked with a darker theme.

I'm not entirely certain of what the media of Young's work, but I'll refer to them as 3D paintings. The use of caricature to tell a narrative was fresh and like Yim, cute. The images moved on and off the canvas and the three dimensional roughly textured pieces cast strong shadows on the canvas. The Buddhist narrative did not over power the color palette and technique, but all worked seamlessly to create very interesting composition constructed in a manner I've never seen before. They were stunning works that, again, we're very accessible and not like your typical po-mo down talking nihilism.

Mindy and I saw a show in NYC in January called 'the Korean Eye' at MAD and after being in Seoul and seeing the place that this work comes from and see gobs more of it, I think I'm falling in love with this aesthetic. It is cute. But not kitschy. It is brightly colored and joyful. But it is not cheap. It is honest and accessible and if there's a next big thing in the art world I hope this is it.

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