Jan 9, 200612:25 PMThe Life
Soonja Oh Kim: A New World View
Jan 9, 2006 - 12:25 PMCATHEDRAL CITY
It seduces like the sea -- a field of blue, its values changing to mimic the water’s darkest depths, undulating movement, mercurial nature. A sensual yet calculated translucency also prevails -- characteristics that also describe the artist, her gesture, and her process.
I'm in the studio of Soonja Oh Kim, who invited me to see (and ultimately write about) the abstract wall constructions she made for her solo exhibition this January at BGH Gallery at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.
In this series, "Earth and Water," Soonja takes her inspiration from land and sea. Works in rich greens and earthy browns augment the blue panels -- some single, others paired, joined by dramatically contrasting, black-painted wooden beams, which deepen the dimension of the work.
Filling my notebook for what will become a feature in Palm Springs Life magazine, I gleaned Soonja's process:
* Pouring muriatic acid onto sheets of aluminum -- a part-chance-part-controlled step that yields organic textures and patterns.
* Giving emphasis and meaning to the patterns by brushing ink wash over the surface in a gesture akin to Sumi painting. (The finished patina exudes a feeling of time passed, a weathered or aged surface that serves as a point of departure for Soonja.)
* Mounting the aluminum panels onto boards, resulting in minimalist, sculptural wall pieces that defy modernism’s traditional flatness.
Therein lie the academic sensibilities that permeate Soonja’s work: Observers could reasonably connect the formalism of her geometry to the work of icons such as Piet Mondrian or Donald Judd. They might also trace the stained surface to Helen Frankenthaler or Mark Rothko.
But her message is in the process.
Soonja’s departure from formalism manifests in her appropriation of modern traditions into post-modern “objects.” Although mindful of formal structure and shape, she transcends their literal boundaries and expresses a deeply personal perspective of the land and sea -- and our impact on them. The works teeter on the existential, each seeming to hold a secret about the future, a feeling that something is going to happen.
BGH Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., D4, Santa Monica, CA 90404 USA - Phone: (310) 315-9502
--Steven R. Biller, Editor in Chief