The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is now showing Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea through September 20, 2009. At the press opening I commented to one of LACMA's staffers that it was an interesting coincidence that the previous show on BCAM's second floor, Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures also focused on a politically divided country. I wondered if (like Two Germanys was preceded by previous surveys of German art) Your Bright Future would one day be followed up by a show of the art of the two Koreas? "Not a chance; it'll never happen," was the reply. Yet even in the weeks leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the concept of a united Germany had yet to enter the realm of possibility.Yong Soon Min's 2009 Springtimes of Castro and Kim 2009
And similar to Stephanie Barron's precursor show, Exiles and Émigrés, Your Bright Future also captures a mixed bag of the Korean diaspora. The work in the show is visually impactful, be it the 99 Cent Store plastics that Choi Jeong-Hwa wraps and hangs on LACMA's exterior, Bahc Yiso's bright lights, or the bowl-you-over detail in Do Ho Suh's architectural constructions. There's a current of civic boosterism that was totally absent in Barron's show; YBF shares more of an affinity with YBAs or the supposedly CIA-funded Ab-Ex shows that toured Europe as an counterpunch to the social realism of the Soviet Bloc. Thanks to the triumph of capitalism, YBF is not brought to you by some secret ministry of propaganda, but by a facilitator of our trade imbalance, Hanjin Shipping.Choi Jeong-Hwa's Welcome 2009
A short drive away, Kaucyila Brooke has organized Re-figurative Ordering, which features a group of western artists and their investigations into various histories. While visiting a small collection of Asian art on her visit to Cuba, Yong Soon Min came across the painting, a gift from North Korea to Cuba, pictured at the top of this post. She has reproduced it Felix Gonzalez-Torres-style, for gallery visitors to take. In one way Min's work alludes to a gaping hole in YBF: for a show of artists from a country whose existence is a product of two cold war adversaries, the work is largely ahistorical. In contrast, Min's piece provides an instance of the far-flung reach of cold war propaganda's tentacles.Detail of Choi Jeong-Hwa's HappyHappy!! (sic) 2009
We also get to see images Catherine Lord took on a visit to the state archives in Dominica that records the slaves brought to the island nation in the early part of the 19th century. The work is part of an on-going series, The Effect of Tropical Light on White Men.
Do Ho Suh's Fallen Star 1/5, 2008
Besides Lord's work in Re-figurative Ordering, which pushes her investigations in the direction of sociology, other artists in the show (like the artists in YBF) are more likely to implicate their personal experiences. An example by Richard Hawkins is of one of his neoclassical-cum-porn collages, Urbis Paganus IV, 7, which reminds me of the days when we hung out in his dorm room at CalArts, reading theory, and pausing the VCR during Tom Cruise movies so we could take a Polaroid of the one frame that showed his penis.
Bahc Yiso's Your Bright Future, 2002, 09
Dee Williams also finds her sources closer to home, investigating the archives of Chaffey College where she's adjunct faculty. Williams' Untitled Video reviews the archives of what was originally an aggie school and one of the first community colleges in California. Depicting holiday parties (with plastic Christmas trees) and forestry classes (with living ones), Willams' video resonates with the dissonance between the optimism of mid-century exurban California while it exposes the sexism of the era's curricula.
Kim Beom's An Iron in the Form of a Radio, a Kettle in the Form of an Iron, and a Radio in the Form of a Kettle, 2002
The best work in YBF are videos that resonate with a similar dissonance. Minouk Lim's two-channel video Wrong Question captures the misunderstandings of race and politics, and Jooyeon Park's video MONOLOGUE monologue shows an image of a white ESL teacher recalling memories of his home, voiced over by a Korean second-language-speaker.
Still from Dee Williams' Untitled Video, 2007Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea is on the second floor of BCAM at LACMA , and runs through September 20, 2009. The show then travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and runs November 22 through Valentine's Day, 2010.
Re-figurative Ordering is at dnj Gallery through August 29th, 2009.