Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Drawing Art Review: Kwon Kisoo

Kwon Kisoo is exhibiting his first solo show at the Flowers Gallery, and thanks to the Flavor Wire Article (found via Artkrush) I know about it. Simply titled “Kwon Kisoo: Recent Works”, the exhibit features the ‘Dongguri’ paintings. Kisoo has exhibited these mostly in East Asia and has developed a following there, but this is his first showing in New York.
Dongguri is as much a character as it is a simplified form; explained as Kisoo's "alter ego", it has no gender or otherwise distinguishable features, leaving it open to the interpretation of the audience. The forms are simple and repeated - strange candy stripes make up the bamboo forests, blossoms share the same shapes, the Dongguri itself is repeated with near indistinguishable clones ( I can't tell the difference between the 'original' and the 'copies', at least), and accompanied by an equally ambiguous four-legged companion. But they all come together to create whimsical scenes and compositions. The attention to detail within individual pieces is quite stunning – while the forms appear easy enough to multiply and mass produce, Kisoo’s precision in recreating the forms by hand is evident – the pieces all follow certain rules (for example, all the blossoms in the works are oriented like compasses, with the petals all consistently pointed in the four cardinal directions) but there is room for infinite variation within those guidelines.
Further researching the current exhibition of Kisoo’s works in the Flowers Gallery in New York, I found two pieces not included in the Flavorwire article: A Blow off Day Are You? And Blow Off Meditation. They vary the most from the other Dongguri paintings because they lack the implied landscape, replaced by whimsical lines which support the Dongguri. The slow, undulating ‘ground’ reminded me most of Dr.Suess. From Deep Black is also a variant, being grounded by a variety of colored cubes, reminiscent of The Matrix. And Would You Wait for Me 2 features the Dongguri standing on a miniaturized planet-scape, fraught with holes from which colorful bamboo shoot forth. Within all these variants Kisoo maintains the underlying mood and graphic, yet whimsy appearances of thegroup of works.

The Dongguri paintings are in a sense, multi functional - while they may be criticized as being 'too commercial'(Kisoo has already created a line of clothing and other products based on the works) that may not necessarily be a bad thing. From the standpoint of modernization, it means that Kisoo's work is accessible to a broad audience: persons who buy the products and view the artwork online, in addition those who may view his work in person. And the 'commercial nature' of the work does not detract from its other qualities.
Another criticism of the Kisoo's paintings is that they are not in fact art, but illustration work. My question is, "in what way?" according to Princeton University's WordNet database, illustration is defined as "artwork that helps make something clear or attractive". While the Dongguri paintings are inspired by Korean landscapes, the scenery itself is still visually ambiguous. The geometric and graphic style actually emphasizes a fantasy atmosphere. There is also no 'clear message' Kisoo tries to communicate; rather, there are theme which loosely suggest his viewpoints on current issues like the environment and materialism, but in viewing the work, these come second.
Previously I've had no experience or knowledge of Kwon Kisoo or his work, but finding it for this assignment has actually led me to become very interested and excited about the Dongguri paintings. Unfortunately the exhibition at the Flowers gallery in New York ends this week (October 2nd), but hopefully sometime in the future I’ll get the chance to see these works in person. In the meantime I’ve changed my Google homepage to the free Dongguri theme.

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