Art is not just a painting on the wall anymore (though some may argue it never was). Today, what we consider art is as diverse as a subway station at rush hour. Due to the technological globalization of our world, a hybrid reality has been born—a place where the virtual and the natural blur. Our art has become bionic; traditional ways of creating collide with new media. Art now exists both inside and outside the frame.
This global setting of blurred reality and fantasy is currently on display at the CU Art Museum with a group-showing of contemporary South Korean art titled Keeping it Real: Korean Artists in the Age of Multi-Media Representation, curated by J.P. Park, CU assistant professor of art history.
The exhibition consists of traditional forms of art — sculpture, photography and paintings — re-imagined, as well as mixed-media technologies, including 3-D video. Though the show displays many different mediums, the unifying theme of perceived reality is heavy and holds steady throughout.
“For our audience here, there’s probably varying degrees of familiarity with contemporary Korea; this show can help broaden that understanding,” says Lisa Becker, director of the CU Art Museum. “The audience can see how much commonality there is between our society and Korea today and [with] global society in general.”
These eight South Korean artists show that the world doesn’t have to exist exactly as it appears. In fact, we all have the ability to reshape what we see and form it into something thought-provoking for others.
Jaye Raye’s “Cherry Blossoms” consists of five monitors showing a falling motif of cherry blossoms, later understood as not blossoms at all but something quite the opposite, and not nearly as ascetically pleasing. It begs us to ask questions about desire, beauty and our own perceptions of reality.
Kyung Woo Han does something rather brilliant in “Star Pattern Shirt.” Simple, yet executed well, the mixed-media piece is a perfect representation of repurposing perspective. Han places a surveillance camera behind carefully spaced household objects — a desk, a table, a shirt — so that the resulting 2-D image looks like an American flag. People then walk in front of the camera and become part of the piece, part of the American dream icon, and also part of the American overly protective big brother nightmare.
One of the strongest components comes from the exhibition’s ability to play with, combine and deconstruct moments of reality and fiction, as in Yeondoo Jung’s 85-minute video Documentary Nostalgia. In one long shot, it encapsulates our structures of perception by following a group of people as they both put together a film set and act in the film. It includes scenes representing inside living spaces such as an entryway and outside spaces like the building and tearing down of a grain field.
All of it is shot on set. This leads to questions about what is performance, what is an authentic moment, and perhaps even more philosophically, how spaces and our relationships to one another are created and why?
An environmentally concerned audience would probably be drawn to Yong-ho Ji’s work, as he uses recycled materials, mainly tires and steel, to create elaborate sculptures. His jaguar is a hard-to-miss piece displayed in the center of the museum. This use of recycled materials has become almost as popular as the use of paint or clay, but Ji’s reinterpretation of tires to build these larger-than-life animal sculptures plays on both the green movement as well as the fantastical. His well-executed use of the materials is in a way inspiring; to see something as ugly as a rubber tire get transformed into something gorgeous helps remind us that almost anything in life can be renovated and re-imagined.
But that’s the allure of art, its magic. Its ability to capture and draw in an audience, as well as change peoples’ perceptions of how they view the world. This show strongly lends itself to those elements.
There are many remarkable things happening in the world of art today. The globalization of our world has helped connect us and bring us closer to innovative thoughts and experiences.
“One of the most exciting things about our moment in terms of art is that it’s a pluralistic concept,” Becker says. “It’s a wide-open field of experimentation.”
This experimentation has led to artists generating impressive new works that encapsulate this hybrid mentality of mixing mediums, genres, thoughts, theories and emotions. These mixings give way to a better understanding and discovering of ourselves and our connections to one another through both the creation of, and the examining of, the blurred borders.
The binary of fantasy and reality, east and west, black and white, fades, and we’re left immersed in all the many places, shades and colors.
ON THE BILL: Keeping it Real runs in full until March 24 at the CU Art Museum, 1085 18th St., Boulder. Admission is free.
Photo: Jeff Wells / © CU Art Museum