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Artist’s presentation and preview
Thursday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 20, 5 – 7 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 27, 11:30 a.m.
Guest artist talk with installation and video
artist Jin Soo Kim
Thurs., March 19, 7 p.m. in Selby Gallery/Lecture Hall
Closing reception and concert
Fri., March 20, 6:30-8 p.m.
with return performance by the electronic band "Hoverkraft" startingat 7 p.m.
JIN SOO KIM
The earliest images in the Korean-born artist Jin Soo Kim’s memory are scenes of people dealing with the trauma of having lived through a recent war in which four million people were killed or wounded, half of whom were civilians. She came into this world in 1950, the year the North Koreans invaded South Korea and quickly overran her birthplace, Seoul. Kim was too young to remember when her mother returned to what was left of the city, but the sight of coping with the aftermath of post war Korea is imbued in her work.
As a child, Kim also became used to the sound of women screaming in pain, and seeing blood drenched newspapers, sheets covered with an array of bodily fluids and discarded umbilical cords—Kim’s mother supported the family by working as a midwife. Those memories show up in her work as well.
Seoul came back to life as Kim grew into adulthood. In 1973, she received a B.S. from Seoul National University in Nursing, which she pursued for the purpose of gaining experience as an independent person. Feeling the limitations Korean society placed on women, Korea was no longer acceptable for Kim. She decided to move to the U.S.A. by herself to pursue art. In Los Angeles, she made her art while working at the hospital as a nurse. In 1975, after living in Los Angeles for 7 months, Kim found a university so isolated that she would concentrate only on her art. Her early experience of reading books about Abraham Lincoln and books written by Mark Twain gave feeling for Illinois to Kim along with her longing and curiosity for the Mississippi River. Finally she reached to Macomb, Illinois, near the Mississippi River, a town of 18,000 residents surrounded by seemingly endless corn and soybean fields.
In 1983, Kim received her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (where she has taught since 1990). Two years after receiving her degree, she had her first one person show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Her exhibition happened to be running concurrently with the first Chicago retrospective of the work of her favorite painter, Leon Golub.
Kim quickly gained a national reputation and then international reputation. Since 1985, Kim has been commissioned to create more than forty site-specific pieces. Her list of selected exhibitions includes 75 solo and group shows in the United States, China, Germany, Holland, Italy, and Korea. Among them are exhibitions at the Walker Art Center and The Brooklyn Museum of Art, where she took part in the Grand Lobby Project that anticipated the rise of importance given to installations in the 1980’s.
In 2003, Kim exhibited a colossal scale 20-year survey at the Chicago Cultural Center. It took two days to move 20 years worth of installation remnants to the cultural center, and two weeks to install. In the gallery next to Kim’s cavernous space, another artist was having what turned out to be his last retrospective. Ironically the artist was Leon Golub, who died seven months after their openings.
So what next? Kim’s memories of coming to L.A. and then moving to Macomb, four hours away from Chicago, led to a new installation piece involving bare light bulbs attached to braided wiring and incorporating railroad plates and pins, and stark sounds of light bulbs exploding. A second piece on this theme consisted of eight, 10-inch high, eight-foot long steel tunnels with the sounds of ticking clocks, breaking light bulbs and footsteps walking over broken glass echoing through it, called roll-run-hit-run-roll-tick-, which was also shown at Selby Gallery in an exhibition called Constructing Realities in 2004.
Kim has spent years collecting objects from the streets and alleys in Chicago. The waste of the world that became part of stuff, the large installation piece she produced for this exhibition, is arranged in cage-like structures fashioned from metal grids. The things inside the sculpture are the discarded detritus of people’s lives. Among the objects are toys, musical instruments, plastic flowers, water skis, mannequins, broken furniture, and a hobbyhorse. The cages also hold giant umbilical-like forms, at times vine-like, which are reminiscent of her earlier installations. The objects she chose are tightly placed inside the cages. They possess a visual poetry of things once used by people, which now have a new context. Order is established over their seeming disorder inside the structures by the mathematical perfection of the grids.
Kim has recently begun to experiment with digital filmmaking. The change in media does not represent a change in her approach to creating art. She is continuing to focus on what is barely noticed or discarded and gathers her images with the sensibilities of a sculptor who works with found objects and found images. Her films are purposefully crude and direct and not meant to be seen as narrative cinema.
Although most of the work chosen for this exhibition is new because of Kim’s method of recycling what has been used before, it also represents three phases of Kim’s work going back to the 1980s. What she creates is deeply felt yet quietly contemplative. It is the stuff of memories and her lingering feelings of displacement, and must be looked at slowly and in the same contemplative way it was created.