Korean contemporary art in the US - judging a competition

From left: Alise Tifentale, David Cohen, and Hyewon Yi.

Korean contemporary artists who are working in the US have a great resource to support them, the AHL Foundation which - among many other activities - awards generous cash prizes. This year, I had the honor and responsibility to be a member of the jury for one of the competitions, the 2015 Contemporary Visual Art Competition.

At the AHL Foundation Gala and fundraiser, October 24, 2015. Photo by Hon Sun Lam.

Together with Hyewon Yi (Director and Curator of Amelie A. Wallace Gallery, SUNY Old Westbury) and David Cohen (Editor and Publisher of Artcritical; Founder-Moderator of The Review Panel at the National Academy Museum) we reviewed more than a hundred applications and selected four winning artists in January 17, 2015.

Part of the prize for the artists was an opportunity to show their work in a group exhibition Spatial Visions, curated by Hyewon Yi at the Art Mora Gallery in Chelsea, NYC (October 22 - November 4, 2015). The other part of the prize was awarded during the annual AHL Foundation Gala and fundraiser (October 24, 2015). Eun Young Choi, Director of Programs of the AHL Foundation, is doing an amazing job in making these well-organized and memorable events happen.

Read more on AHL Foundation's website about the annual Contemporary Visual Art Competition as well as the foundation itself - it is initiated and led by Sook Nyu Lee Kim with the aim of supporting Korean artists working in the United States.  I think it's a great cause and worthwhile to support.

Here's the four winning artists of the 2015 Contemporary Visual Art Competition, a brief paragraph I wrote about their work, and a snapshot of their work in the exhibition Spatial Visions:

1st place: Eunsook Lee

Eunsook Lee’s site-specific outdoor installations channel the power of the historically and politically highly charged places, such as the Berlin Wall or the fence of DMZ in Korea, into an intimate message. The artist’s work powerfully engages the spectator in an attempt to grasp the very personal nature of tragedies that take place wherever political powers divide nations, countries, and families.

2nd place: Buhm Hong

Delicate and mysterious, Buhm Hong’s drawings, installations, and video works confuse the spectator’s gaze and trap it inside the partly Piranesian, partly Duchampian world of empty rooms. Often relying on the Renaissance principle of one-point perspective, Buhm Hong presents us with numerous uninhabitable and alien interior spaces. Yet these rooms at the same time appear strangely welcoming. The strength of these works lies exactly in this duality.

3rd Place: Yoosamu 

The idea of the grandes machines of the pre-Impressionist salons of Paris victoriously reappears in Yoosamu’s large scale paintings. Regardless how far from the French academic art these paintings are formally, in their meaning and significance they bear a curious resemblance. The modern myths, with the modern nymphs from Manga and the modern warriors from video games are no less engaging and no less exciting for many today as the depiction of, let’s say, the birth of Venus or the death of Socrates was for many contemporaries of Bouguereau or David. The artist adds another layer of paradoxes by translating mainly digital characters and environments into the analog medium of painting.

Wolhee Choe Memorial Award: Heelim Hwang

Abstraction and figuration have never been closer than they are in Heelim Hwang’s paintings that offer a fresh take on geometrical abstraction as well as representational work. The craziness and all-over quality of patterns and the overwhelming spatial constructions in the interior paintings suggest a twenty-first century post-modern reincarnation of Edouard Vuillard. The ease with which the artist uses perspectival illusion as well as plays with completely flat surfaces is fascinating.