Two Korean Artists Make Fragments into Art

At The Armory Show this week, Tina Kim Gallery and Kukje Gallery present a dynamic pairing of female Seoul-based artists who cross-examine an increasingly globalized world through a focus on traditional materials. In their reworking of processes domestically inclined and historically charged, Yeesooksung and Kyungah Ham piece together the fractured politics of our time, finding grace and formal beauty in complicated subjects. 

The presentation will display selections from Yeesooksung’s Translated Vase series, which includes some of her best-known work. The artist, who works in a variety of media including video and drawing, has referred to these curvaceous, uncanny sculptures as “stuttering discards from standard conventional masterpieces.” To make these delicate Frankensteins, Yeesooksung acquires the broken cast-offs from a ceramic master; usually, up to 70 percent of ceramics are broken by artists when, emerging from the kiln, they do not conform to their standards of excellence. She then reconfigures the fragments into sculptures both small and towering, and coats the seams with gold, creating a delicate and obvious seam between the cast-off ceramics. In addition to these sculptures are works from the artist’s “Flame Variations” series, intricate, colorful, and, at times sinister works on silk. Yeesooksung creates the image exclusively on her knees, a position that she has likened to prayer.

Kyungah Ham’s recent work focuses on the alienation of North Korea from South Korea, and since 2008, has favored textiles to explore this relationship. Resembling the color-stain paintings of Morris Louis and embedded with significance, the works on display are from her “Abstract Weave” series and could be considered as much performance art as a physical work. To create the series, Ham transcribed news articles from the internet and hid them in embroidery patterns that she then sent to North Korean textile workers through connections in China. In creating these woven abstractions, the workers deciphered the articles—a small, dangerous, and often futile process in which the artworks were frequently destroyed by North Korean authorities. 

Molly Osberg

Visit Tina Kim Gallery and Kukje Gallery at The Armory Show 2015, Pier 94 Contemporary, Booth 704, Mar. 5–8.

Explore The Armory Show 2015 on Artsy

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