Home Architect Andrew Russeth on seok ho kang

Andrew Russeth on seok ho kang

by godlove4241
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It takes nerve to make a huge painting of a donkey in jeans, especially one about seven square feet. But to develop a viable practice from close-up and unusual images like this, you need to own something entirely different. Rare talent, to begin with. Meet South Korean artist seok ho kang, who before his death in 2021 at fifty years old spent around two decades creating this kind of work. Oozing with pungent psychic sensations and playing with the codes of portraiture, they are unforgettable.

The artist used both photos he took and those he culled from media, cropping each tightly around a body and then fluffing them on linen, his flat, even strokes conveying the texture of the tissue and skin. A figure in a gray suit is captured around the crotch, in motion, in a piece from 2004. A smaller work from 2016 (all are individually untitled) has a brilliantly lit neck bathed in pearls. These works retain a Pictures-style focus on building power and glamour, an approach further emphasized in the ‘Gesture’ series of paintings that Kang began in 2008, reproducing parts of newsreels in grayscale. We recognize Muhammad Ali just by his raised fists, mouth and chin; other subjects are not entirely identifiable, but we can tell by the way they are holding a microphone or waving at an unseen crowd that they are serious.

More often, however, kang’s seductive art is concerned with everyday scenes, offering an intimacy that can escalate into fetishism: bra straps framing a back, a hand slipped between two bare thighs, the pleats of a striped skirt (it could be an abstraction modernist skirt), or a cascade of curly brown hair, like a relaxed Domenico Gnoli. Being in public with these bodies can be unsettling, and exhibit curators Eunju Lee and Jimin Lee have stepped things up by placing several on shelves arranged along narrow rows, so you can experience them on your own. You could get close to these people, but you couldn’t quite connect. Their faces are usually absent, and in the only series where they appear – “Couple”, 2016-21, placing the heads side by side – they are cut so close that they are only two eyes and the tips of noses. They see us much more than we see them.

As a selection of tiny source images from kang revealed, he often tweaked while transposing, adding a slight halo to the back of a woman’s head or quick yellow markings to a blue plaid shirt and otherwise bland white. In nine paintings on display, he depicts the same thing over and over: someone with hands behind their back, fist in palm. The pattern on the model’s jacket is slightly different each time, as is the color and placement of those hands. It’s like Kang struggles to remember the image, maybe hoping to make it better. (He also staged what is done to images today, as they are filtered, altered, re-recorded.) beauty in the midst of repetitive typologies. (He became a Bauhaus fan in Germany, buying pieces and building charming furniture, both on display.)

In his later years, Kang ventured in an intriguing new direction, using looser brushwork to depict Rubik’s Cubes – games which, unlike painting, allow only limited movement and have a definite conclusion. These cubes float in empty space, some vanishing. None seem close to being solved, but a few are halfway there, as if someone is working on them, watching carefully, experimenting, trying to make them as they are. they should be.

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