Friday, August 2, 2013

Korean art at Tacoma Community College

The Weekly Volcano
Aug. 1, 2013

"Flying Hooves" ink on paper by Nam Hyung Kim
The Exhibition of Korean Artists and Korean Artists Association of Washington is now open at the gallery at Tacoma Community College. It is an interesting show if someone uneven in quality. Both amateur and professional artists are included. If I understand correctly from the press release, most if not all of the artists are Korean-Americans living in the Pacific Northwest. There is very little that looks at all Asian, a couple of watercolors and one ink drawing; everything else looks like traditional Western art — “Western” as in European or American.

The most famous artist in the show is Seattle painter Joseph Park, but his two paintings are atypical and definitely not among his best works. There is a painting of a tiger that would take many more words to explain than I’m allowed. To over generalize, Park makes fun of kitsch or bad art with clever and skillfully painted “bad” pictures. His tiger painting is terribly clichéd, and the companion piece is a dull and also clichéd abstraction. I’ve seen some fabulous work by this painter, but these are not them.

Two of my favorite pieces are a couple of landscapes by Hyoseen Jung — actually side-by-side pictures that comprise one painting in two frames. That is a convention I have never liked, but in this case it works. I’ve also never liked elaborate gilded frames or the use of shiny gold or silver paint. Jung uses all of these in a landscape of a river painted in heavy impasto with gold in the foreground and a stormy sky in black and white. The whole thing shimmers and creates a feeling of rushed movement, and I really love it. 

Bella Young Ok Kim has two nice wall hangings in recycled fabric and plastic bags, which have a strong visual impact. Kim’s “Joy” is a marvelous cascade of multi-colored circles that sweep down from the ceiling to the floor. “Reminiscence” is an open-weave piece that combines delicate and rough materials.

There are some traditional landscapes that are ho-hum and some bad paintings of animals, and a couple of wonderfully sparse watercolors by Hee Wan Lee, which capture the essence of a scene with a few wet strokes, a nice interplay between positive and negative shapes, and some touches of fiery red.

One of my favorite pieces is an ink drawing of horse’s hooves by Nam Hyung Kim called “Flying Hooves.” I must admit that when I first looked at it, it looked terribly amateurish, but the longer I looked the more it grew on me. It’s like one of Susan Rothenberg’s horse paintings if Rothenberg were a Sumi painter.

[Tacoma Community College, Exhibition of Korean Artists and Korean Artists Association of Washington, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, through Aug. 3, Bldg. 3, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma.]

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