Moving or Dancing
Gallery Bienvenu (New Orleans, LA)
by Richard Speer
Intricate and allusive, artist Key-Sook Geum’s sculptures and installations capture paradoxical qualities: presence and absence, form and negative space, reality and imagination. Based in Seoul, Korea, Geum has exhibited these virtuosic etudes of metal and air in Berlin, Vienna, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, among many other cities around the world. As if to channel Jim Dine’s iconic robes through the rich traditions of Eastern aesthetics, Geum sculpts robes, waistcoats, dresses, and other symbolic garments, creating them out of paper-covered iron wire. Sometimes she affixes other elements such as coral, beads, and ribbons that tremble and flutter slightly as viewers walk by, evoking the life-energy known as “qi” in traditional Asian thought.
“I am a person of curiosity,” Geum says. “I express my thoughts using my favorite forms and materials.”
These thoughts often center around the complexity of human interactions with nature and technology. Specifically, the filigree of metal webbing in her sculptures relates to the “World-Wide Web” that has increasingly brought Western and Eastern cultures together. There is a delicate, minimalist poetry in the shadows the pieces cast and the play of light on the colored beads, which Geum says remind her “of dewdrops in the morning, reflecting a message of optimism and hope for the future.” Suspended by nearly invisible wires, the sculptures seem to defy gravity, floating like thistledown, despite the process-driven arduousness of their execution.
The works provoke the eye, inviting 360-degree viewing, while spurring rumination over their layers of content and intent. There is a fairytale-like glamour to their luxuriant silhouettes, which is offset by their deconstructionist method. Their literal subject matter—the garment—is essentially utilitarian, yet is transfigured by the romanticism of the artist’s approach. The pieces imply human presence but are ghostly and cipher-like, leading the viewer to question the relationship between the real and the simulated. These paradoxes, central to current debates in contemporary art, underlie the sheer gorgeousness of the sculptures’ visual appeal.
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