Breaking the Mold: Contemporary Korean Ceramics, organized by J. Lohmann Gallery, New York, showcases five of the most talented emerging designers from South Korea working with clay.
The featured designers—Sangwoo Kim (born 1980), Ahryun Lee (born 1989), Nin Lee (born 1983), Jongjin Park (born 1982), and Bae Sejin (born 1981)—were born in Korea and have studied and worked internationally, continuously exploring the creative possibilities afforded by embracing a global perspective bridging East and West. Korean ceramics have typically been considered uniform in appearance and utilitarian in function, a misconception that these new voices aim to correct with their innovative approaches to contemporary ceramic design. Each designer’s inimitable ornamental language, use of experimental techniques, and unique interpretation of clay create a perfect symphony between craft, design, and art—which is anything but ordinary.
Every object expresses the individual goals and influences of its maker. Some works are inspired by forms found in nature, while others appear manufactured and industrial. Materials seemingly at odds with one another, such as porcelain slip and kitchen paper, are harmoniously combined. Many of the vessels are hand-built, sometimes from hundreds of small fragments. The textures are varied and surprising; in different pieces, the clay masquerades as glass, plastic, wood, textile, or even fur and rubber.
At the core of all of these objects is the designers’ fundamental knowledge and understanding of the clay material, which has been augmented over years of practice. The end products seamlessly blend the centuries-old traditions of Korean ceramics with contemporary colors, expressiveness, and versatility.