SeMA highlights 12 young artists
By Joon Soh
In recent years, the Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA) has concentrated on putting on two kinds of shows: large, thematically ambitious group exhibitions and crowd-pleasing retrospectives of great masters. Once every two years, though, the museum turns its space over to Korea’s less established artists and gives them the opportunity to shine.
Titled “12 Events in 12 Rooms,” the fifth installment of the biennial series is being held until May 17, and for the show, 12 contemporary artists working in different mediums were each given a room of his or her own. It is an effective format as it allows visitors to spend ample time with each young artist’s works and enjoy them on their own merit, something that’s not always easy to do in crowded group shows.
This year’s selection is an intriguing blend of artistic styles and perspectives, expressed through paintings, drawings, found objects, installations and sound sculptures. The featured artists share the tendency to approach art from a conceptual framework, as if they were scientists working a hypothesis to its logical result.
Of the 12 artists, Moon Hyung-min’s method is the most analytical. The artist covered the room walls with diagonal stripes of paint; their size, order and colors are dictated by careful calculations Moon made of SeMa’s exhibition catalogues and color schemes of the past 11 years.
Kim Young-sup’s “New Memory of the Garden” uses 200 tiny speakers scattered on the floor to recreate the sounds of a country summer day. The insect noises that fill and calm the room are actually made by manipulated DVD players and a special sound machine.
Questioning the nature of perception is a theme that runs through many of the rooms. Zin Ki-jong ’s giant diorama shows two boats stranded in a thunderstorm at night. As the thunder roars and a lighthouse desperately searches for the boats, gallery visitors use binoculars to peer from a podium into the darkened scene.
Less whimsical are Ha Tae-Bum’s sensual black-and-white photographs, which seemingly depict major natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other famous news incidents. However, the images are actually meticulously rendered plastic sculptures of those horrific news scenes, which were then carefully photographed. The result is a troubling sense of distance and displacement.
Other artists seem to take a less rigid conceptual approach towards their art. Kim Ki-ra decorates her space with personal drawings along with various religious icons and sculptures she picked up from her 8-year travel through 10 countries. There is a pawn-shop feel to her installation, but there is also a sense that her spiritual and artistic search is genuine.
Part-time Suite, a three-member group, presents improvised videos taken from their visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Meanwhile, Han Kyung-woo’s formal dissection of everyday objects work like visual brainteasers, and visitors may spend hours trying to figure them out.
Kim Sang-don’s “Bulgwang-dong Totem — Interview” asks intriguing questions about our need to judge and evaluate each other. Scrawled on the wall are various job interview questions, as chairs that stand in for the interviewees are tantalizingly decorated with plants and food.
Overall, the 12 rooms of the exhibit are dynamic and visually engaging, made with an energy expected from young and emerging artists. And although not every room is completely successful, collectively, they make for a worthwhile and entertaining journey through current art trends.
The exhibition will run through May 17 at the Seoul Museum of Art in downtown Seoul. For more, call (02) 2024-8800 or go to www.seoulmoa.org.
Joon Soh is a contributing writer for The Korea Times.