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Korean modern art exhibit upcoming at MIA

March 23 - June 23


The Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) announced today a new exhibition of contemporary Korean art to be exhibited at the museum’s Target Galleries March 23 through June 23. The exhibit is entitled The Shape of Time: Korean Art after 1989, and organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Tickets are $20, with additional discounts for MIA members.

Using a variety of mediums, including ceramics, painting, fiber, photography, lacquer, installation, metalwork, mixed media, embroidery, and video, these artists explore themes like conformity, displacement, gender and sexuality, coexistence, dissonance, that together offer a deeper understanding of South Korea, and its history and culture.

 One of the continuing themes, dissonance, is in some of the artists’ reflections on South Korea’s past and present, the foundations of Korean society, and the paradoxes of a divided Korea. Dissonance is shown in works such as Hayoun Kwon’s video 489 years (2016). The viewer occupies the role of a soldier on a day-long patrol of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a strip of land separating North and South Korea along the 38th parallel. The work’s title, 489 Years, references the number of years experts think it would take to clear the one million mines within the boundary between the two Koreas. The video depicts a lush, green area filled with wildlife, with the destructive potential of the area hidden.

 The theme of reinvention is reflected in some of the artists’ use of traditional art forms, with ancient aesthetics combined with contemporary sensibility. For example, Suki Seokyeong Kang’s vibrantly woven mats are inspired by a handcrafted straw mat tradition dating back to the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392).

Artists also reflect the theme of coexistence, and imbue Korean values with new meaning. Eui-jeong Yoo’s Treasures of Daily Life (2018) expresses this fusion of ideas in his series of recognizable corporate logos for companies such as McDonald’s, Louis Vuitton, and Hello Kitty.

The theme of “being seen,” challenging patriarchal power structures and cultural standards, is expressed through works depicting experiences that are frequently marginalized, silenced, or erased in popular culture. An Attack by Green Horns, by Sang-hee Yun, is a pair of lacquered and gold dagger-like spikes worn on the front torso and back shoulder. Yun created these spikes to express a sense of protection for the wearer.

 The works in the section on “portraying anxiety” raise questions about group participation and larger societal challenges in Korea and elsewhere. In the video Let’s Do National Gymnastics, Jaewoo Oh fuses nostalgia and the impact of a culture of conformity by portraying a compulsory exercise program for students, used in Korean public  schools between 1977 and 1999.

Works from MIA’s permanent collection will be added to the exhibition in Minneapolis, including Do Ho Suh’s Some/One, a 2005 sculpture based on a coat of traditional armor. Composed from thousands of polished military dog tags, the work juxtaposes the collective (represented by the armored sculpture) with the individual (symbolized by the dog tags, each representing a single soldier). Also featured is a selection from Byron Kim’s ongoing Synecdoche portraiture project, currently comprised of more than 400 panels, each approximating the skin color of a person Kim has met.



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