Museum presents 2013 Artist of the Year exhibition Jul 19 2013
MMCA’s annual award nominates four finalists whose works explore various social issues, including generation gap, anxiety and crisis

“Bird’s Eye View” by Ham Yang-ah. (MMCA)

The annual artist-of-the-year exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea presents artwork that explores key social issues in Korean society, such as the generation gap, anxiety and crisis.

The 2013 Korea Artist Prize has nominated four artists ― Jo Hae-jun, Ham Yang-ah, Kong Sung-hun and Shin Mee-kyoung ― whose artworks are on display at the 2013 Korea Artist Prize exhibition from Friday to Oct. 20 at the MMCA Gwacheon.

For 15 years, the prestigious prize has recognized artists whose distinctive artistic practices and ideas are worth noting.

The winner of the prize will be announced in September based on the works on display at the exhibition.

Jo Hae-jun explores his relationship with his father in installations and a film. His father, who once dreamed of becoming an artist, submitted a painting to the national art award in the early 1960s, which he kept secret for years. The painting, which failed to win the award, became a means for opening a new relationship with his son Hae-jun.

“A Memorial Tree” by Jo Hae-jun. ( MMCA)

As the painting is the first piece that greets viewers at the exhibition, the father’s long-held dream has come true.

“Here art serves as a medium that connects the gap between two generations, father and son,” said Kim Gyeong-hoon, curator of the exhibition, at the press conference on Thursday.

Twisting social problems are key subjects for Ham Yang-ah and Kong Sung-hun. Ham has created a metaphorical world of social injustice and unbalance through installation works.

“Viewers will have to go through a platform to enter the room. The platform moves back and forth depending where the viewers’ weight is placed. This is where the artist intends to show how vulnerable our society is while we all dream of an ideal world,” said the curator Kim.

“The Nonsense Factor” consists of six parts, each addressing some keywords in contemporary society such as capitalism, the economy and happiness as an institutionalized ideology.

While films and installations are popular media for artists to express their opinions on social conditions, Kong Sung-hun expresses anxiety and social crisis through dark scenes of nature.

“At first look, it looks like an awe-inspiring scene of nature, but it also features unbalanced scenes such as three people throwing pebbles in stormy weather or a man smoking while sitting on a rock,” said Kong at the guided tour.

The engulfing waves and the dark sky all painted in exaggerated color tones seem out of human control, resembling the unexpected events that people experience, such as an economic crisis.

Shin Mee-kyoung seeks to redefine sculpture through the theme of “translation.” Shin presents pieces that look like famous marble sculptures seen at the Louvre Museum or British Museum, but made of soap. She questions the permanence of the value of the classic works and the delicate and ephemeral characteristics of soap.

The “Translation: An Epic Archive,” offers soap sculptures the artist has created over the past 20 years, from busts to polished vases, to a giant equestrian statue that was once placed in a plaza in London as part of Shin’s artistic experimentation while she studied in the city.

The exhibition runs through Oct. 20 at the Gwacheon museum of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea. For more information, call (02) 2188-6114.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)

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