I call it ORANGES

Art Reviews, Cultural Bric a Brac, Jargon Free

Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

I am an independent writer living in Los Angeles. I write Visual Art Reviews, General Cultural Essays, and Book Reviews.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Soo Kim

Soo Kim
Sandroni Rey
Through June 14th

In 1980, Bob Irwin converted a store front in Venice into what may have been the perfect expression of that most explored vocabulary definition -- everyone’s favorite words, “inside” and “outside.” I was still in diapers, but the story goes that people on the street walked up to a soft white wall, gleaming on the side of what must of been a dirty Venice street (only recently did Venice get a Pinkberry). The longer the people on the street stood there, the deeper their reward. The wall gave way as their eyes came to handle the light. The wall (a scrim of cloth sheathing) dissolved and they could see into a white studio space. Literally, a firm “outside” gave way to equally real “inside.” This was not a metaphor for inside and outside. This was not a painting. This was transition from a lived sense of outside to a lived sense of inside.

I thought of the Irwin piece when visiting Soo Kim’s new show at Sandroni Rey in Culver City -- to be honest, I first thought about the Irwin at Kim’s show last year. In that show, Kim painted the walls in subtle shades of white, greys, soft browns in attempt to mimic, negotiate, and change the shadows and light that naturally play in the gallery through its two skylights. I thought at the time that the installation was quite beautiful and intuitive like that Irwin piece must have been, but at the time, I had the sense that Kim, unlike Irwin, works in a quasi-representational mode, that her variations on light and on “inside” and “outside” must be tied to symbol and metaphor, to pictures and the imagination, instead of a scientific experimentation with how one sees.

Kim’s new show of all photographs tells me that I am onto something. Some of the photos are of light playing on a window pane, leaves and trees are reflected onto and through the pane, but the vast majority of the photos are of a woman laying her head on a table like a bored kid in detention, rolling this way and that, looking out down up and out again. She appears to be in continuous motion, each moment slightly different. In the gallery, the viewer feels the continuity. Present in the series as a whole, both the window photographs and the tables, is modern architecture, organized with its lines dissolving into light and shadow and its well critiqued stifling rigor sent off in a breath.

In the table photographs, however, Kim has cut macramé patterns with lyrical, swirling loops and little birds and animals into the surface of the paper. The photographs are set off the white of their frame so it is less the white of the matte that filters through the cut holes as much as air. Overall, the impact is not very dramatic but instead understated and demure -- from a distance the patterns merge seamlessly with the photographs, upclose the patterns assert themselves like a shy young child. At times, the woman in the photo appears to have control of the macramé patterns, as a puppetmaster with strings. At other times, the patterns consume and almost erase the woman entirely. At certain moments, the patterns leave the woman. All of these patterns are worlds of imagination, of fantasy and daydreaming.

So the question for me became – is this current show an exercise in fantasy or experiential installation or both? How can fantasy play into an experiential installation if we as viewers do not share the fantasies of the woman in the photos?

Whereas Irwin was looking for an almost scientific rigor in how we see, Kim uses the same principles as a fertile ground for flights of fancy, for graceful aesthetic twists. Kim’s flights ultimately are somewhere between representation and direct experience – we don’t sense or the feel the animals but we see their image. However, we both see and sense the patterns float, dissolve, and change in the space. I found this strangely pleasing – somewhere between Yeat’s portrayal of a Foundling in his great, great poem The Stolen Child and Irwin’s scrim works.

The difference between Irwin and Kim is one of imagination. Kim’s woman languishes and lulls on top of the table, dreaming that the division between her and the world of her dreams will dissolve, and the installation itself partially mimics what this is like. Although we can’t know the mind of the girl, the transitions that she desires is at least partially conveyed to us in her shape shifting photos.