Choi Young Wook: Karma is on view at Helen J Gallery, Los Angeles
October 2 – November 27, 2020
Helen J Gallery is proud to announce Karma, an exhibition of work by Korean artist Choi Young Wook. This marks the artist’s first solo exhibition on the Pacific coast. Featuring recent pieces from his renowned series of painted moon jars (달항아리; dalhangari) — round ceramic vessels with roots in 18th century Korea — Karma is as hyper realistic as it is metaphorical.
Choi’s fifteen year-long devotion to rendering moon jars dates back to his encounter with one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where Choi found comfort in the jar’s elegantly minimal and slightly asymmetric shape. The crossing of the fine cracks on the jar’s surface reminded him of the paths that both he and the jar had to cross in order to unite in that moment. The jar suddenly embodied the world of ‘karma,’ where everyone’s path is entangled into one.
Resembling the shape of gibbous moons, the moon jars depicted in Karma instantly draw the viewer’s attention to their smooth surfaces and meticulously drawn cracks. Despite their photorealistic appearance, Choi’s intention is not to merely depict the jars in a lifelike manner; rather, each element is intuitively drawn without a reference, prompting Choi to reflect on and untangle the web of encounters in his life. As a result, the jar becomes a metaphorical object in which his philosophy of life resides. Also a means of communication, his moon jars encourage people to think about their own lives while engaging with, what is for the artist, inherently personal.
Historically, moon jars have been a symbol of abundance, fortune, and conviviality. Just as the jar can carry a handful of goods, Choi’s paintings each possess a multitude of encounters. During Chuseok, the Korean harvest festival, families and friends from a distance gather under the full moon to share food, drink, and the joy of being together. Choi sees his paintings as functioning similarly to the moon, their simple but illuminating power capable of uniting people despite different physical and temporal environments.
The exhibition’s overlap with Chuseok highlights the relational subtext that Choi’s work holds. As part of the gallery’s vision to cultivate a space for gathering and intercultural exchange in the L.A. art community, Helen J Gallery will hold a series of programs that celebrate Korean traditions and the diversity of Los Angeles in conjunction with the exhibition.
Choi Young Wook (b. 1964, Seoul, Korea; lives and works in Paju, Korea) received his MFA and BFA from Hongik University. Selected recent solo exhibitions have been held in Seoul at the Hongik University Museum of Contemporary Art, Gallery Rho, Lotte123, and Banyan Tree Gallery. His work has also been exhibited at Ono Gallery and A-cube Gallery in Tokyo, Art Issue Project in Taipei City, Lotte Gallery in Busan, and Yegam Gallery in New York. Choi’s work has been featured in group shows at the Dong-A Gallery and JJ Joong Jung Gallery in Seoul, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Beijing, Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei in Taipei City, and Gallery HUUE in Singapore. He has also participated in art fairs such as: Art Miami, LA Art Show, Chicago International Art Fair, Palm Beach Art Fair, Art Toronto, KIAF, and Art Busan. Choi’s work is included in numerous public and private collections including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Museum of Contemporary Art in Gwacheon, Korea, Luxembourg Monarchy, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Korean Air, The University of Suwon, and SK Group.
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Photos: Joshua White Photography