SOYOUNG CHUNG, Circular Strata, 2013, super pirror, concrete wood, sand, cork, stone, fake grass and wire, dimensions variable. Courtesy One and J. Gallery, Seoul. 


One and J. Gallery
Korea, South

People in Korea don’t often pick summer as their favorite season; it is typically hot and humid with little breeze. This summer—where things have been particularly unpleasant due to the national outbreak of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and the provocative political activities of our northern neighbors—the opening of the group exhibition “Drift,” at One and J. Gallery in Seoul, provided a refreshing perspective on the way we see the city around us.

Upon entering the venue, the audience immediately encounters the impressive depth and height of the exhibition. “Drift” certainly makes an apt use of the two-story gallery, whose entrance is located on its mezzanine level. The first work visible from the entrance is Soyoung Chung’s Circula Strata (2013), a mobile-like set of hanging objects that each represents a layer of the Earth. What is notable about its display is that visitors are invited to walk down a nearby staircase and view the installation from different angles to see more of its various layers and reflections. Chung synchronizes her artwork’s concept with its interactive viewing experience; using the installation as a metaphor, she encourages us to navigate, and thus come to grasp, the ground that we occupy.

JOONGHO YUM, Let’s Remain Courteous, 2013, digital Ink-jet print, 110 × 110cm. Courtesy One and J. Gallery, Seoul. 

SUYOUNG KIM, Both Sides, 2011, oil on canvas, 105 × 97 cm. Courtesy One and J. Gallery, Seoul. 

Exhibited in the gallery’s lower level are more distinctive artworks. Joongho Yum’s Let’s Remain Courteous (2013) is a photograph with many horizontal lines cutting across the image: two grass hedges, with one in the foreground and the other in the middle-ground; the flat roof of a building in the background; and, finally, the blue sky in the upper part of the frame. Rather subtly, the photo acknowledges the existence of the viewer inside it, encouraging him to look over and beyond the “horizons” with the image’s pre-set outlook. On the next wall are works by Eunsun Lee and Suyoung Kim. The two pieces contrast starkly in terms of their perspective. Lee’s 10:39am (2015) is a photo print featuring a detailed view of a creased and crumpled jade-colored paper, while Kim’s painting Both Sides (2011) is an up-close perspective of a stocky high-rise building, captured at an angle. Lee is looking inwards, with the green paper showing flexible depth, shade and texture, while Kim turns outwards to the urban scenery and the meshing of two sides that can be seen in the structure of any building.

Back on the gallery’s second level, Lee’s inward focus is again at work with Vanishing Point (2014). Located at the far corner of the exhibition space, the work is a trompe l’oeil painting, depicting a wall corner that it is hung on. Interestingly, the work beckons the viewer to come in for a closer look; and our initial response is to keep our imagination going as far as the illusion holds. There is so much delight in encountering a visual trick that involves something so common as a white wall of a gallery space.

The exhibition continues on with another intriguing photo of a rooftop by Yum. Moving another half-story up from this level, we find more experimental works such as Soyoung Chung’s Drifted (2009), an installation connecting a loosened lightbulb cable to a heavy chunk of cement. Elsewhere is an additional photo work by Suyoung Kim, featuring a cropped view of a newspaper building, this time at a massive 200-by-220-centimeter size. This vertigo-inducing image of the newspaper office is a powerful commentary on the impact of urbanization.

Perhaps the best part of the exhibition is when one exits the gallery and returns to the city outside, the imaginative visions in “Drift”—of inner and exterior spaces, including all their nooks, layers and angles—continues to linger in one’s mind.

“Drift” is on view at One and J. Gallery, Seoul, until September 3, 2015.

EUNSUN LEE, Vanishing Point, 2014, pigment print, 79 × 105 cm. Courtesy One and J. Gallery, Seoul.