A Günther Uecker of Packages
What for the Düsseldorf artist is nails, is for Kwang Young Chun paper packages
Crater landscapes on the walls and a throbbing heart measuring 3.30 metres in diameter on the floor. Kwang Young Chun creates archaic and organic forms in his studio near Seoul. What is unusual about his monumental objects, which can currently be marvelled at at Beck & Eggeling, 5 Bilker Straße, is this: the Korean artist, who is represented in museums around the world and who is now having his first exhibition in Germany, created them from umpteen thousand packages tied up with string. Needless to say, the show in the internationally active gallery in Carlstadt makes a spectacular contribution to DC Open 2015. The event is to serve as a meeting place for friends of modern art; it begins this evening at 6 pm and runs until Sunday evening.
This is the seventh time that twenty galleries from Düsseldorf and thirty-two galleries from Cologne have organized this art event unique in Germany, the D(üsseldorf)-C(ologne) Open. And in our city, well-known art institutions from Carlstadt, the inner city and funky Flingern are in on it once again. One thing that has encouraged the gallery owners to keep going with the joint project is the great response the shared exhibition openings have received; another is the fact that favourable winds have been blowing on the international art market. Galleries may compete with each other in their attempt to find buyers for their art, but the concept seems to be a success, especially since there are always many surprises in store for the leisurely art lover.
Like the Impact of Meteors
This is what it is like in the case of the objects by 71-year-old Kwang Young Chun. From a distance the up-to-three-metre-high reliefs recall two-dimensional images made of earthen material. One seems to recognize hills and depressions and hollowed-out places as if from the impact of a meteor. Yet upon a closer look, one sees tiny and medium-sized packages that Chun affixed to the rectangular surfaces. And what is more: The artist used paper from mulberry trees exclusively, hence the show’s title Mulberry Mindscapes.
What for Günther Uecker is nails, is for Chun the paper packages with Korean and Chinese characters. How did he arrive at this form? He was inspired, he says, by the packaged medications that Chun’s uncle hung from the ceiling of his pharmacy in Seoul. They were inscribed with good wishes for his customers. From this Chun developed his first installations twenty years ago, which became a hit first at home and later in all of Asia and in the USA.
“I was inspired by my uncle’s pharmacy”
Kwang Young Chun explains his penchant for paper packaging.
Chun’s objects were discovered by Michael Beck and Ute Eggeling at art fairs. They became acquainted with the Korean two years ago at Art Basel in Hong Kong. Beck was impressed by the archaic forms, which sometimes look like animal heads or tree trunks. He insisted that Chun complete the objects on show here exclusively for Düsseldorf.
Art with a Heartbeat
Chun says that he worked on the large heart (with sound installation) for six months. It has a certain affinity to a UFO. The casing is made of wood and synthetic material, the surface solely of countless paper packages. Fifteen employees wrap the packages by hand and tie them with string. According to Chun, the remote-controlled sound corresponds to the heartbeat of a person at rest. In other words, we have here a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk that puts the viewer in a meditative state of repose.
Detail of Bonnie O’Connell, “I Assist at an Explosion,” 2009. Brian Slattery photos
Artspace was packed last Friday night for the opening of CT (un)Bound, a exhibition of works that put together pieces from the Yale University Art Gallery’s Allan Chasanoff Book Art Collection with eight new commissions. The result was a show that combined aesthetic playfulness and keen social observation.
As the notes explained, the YUAG collection “re-envisions the book as sculpture,” and the new commissions had the assignment to follow suit, taking “the state of Connecticut as a starting point.”
But even the most personal pieces reached back into history. Kwang-Young Chun used book art to explore his own identity; he found answers to the questions of who he was and where he was from “in my ancestors and their lives, and old books are the medium for me to explore these lives.” Before I knew that about the piece, I was already drawn in by the depth of view in Chun’s piece, which was, in a literal sense, profound.
Kwang-Young Chun, “Aggregation 06-AU047.”
Regan Avery’s family has been in Connecticut since the 1600s, and Avery likewise exploded the book to explore family history. A historian in the family printed a book called The Groton Avery Clan a century ago. Regan Avery made a copy and took it apart to show both the family’s longevity and how much has been forgotten. “Most of the lives tracked in The Groton Avery Clan have been condensed to the barest facts: name, year of birth, year of marriage, offspring, year of death. What happened between those dates is lost forever.”
Regan Avery, “The Groton Avery Clan,” 2014.
And yet, as the movement in the piece suggested, still somehow alive, too.
As artists from the YUAG collection imagined the books as vessels for regrowth in an abstract way.
Joan Lyons, “SEED WORD BOOK,” 1981.
Lisa Kokin, “The Idea of Nature,” 2007.
...the more recent commissions explicitly applied this theme to Connecticut’s own path toward the future. Jo Yarrington, Morgan Post, and Sam Dole used their piece to examine the history of nuclear power and nuclear waste—in the Nutmeg State.
Jo Yarrington, Morgan Post, and Sam Dole, “Containment and Spillage,” 2014.
Richard Rose sought to create a “lettered portrait of New Haven” over time by putting together a book of its signage.
Richard Rose, “Reading New Haven,” 2014.
And Marion Belanger used a similar accordion book to draw attention to the Naugatuck Valley, where the artist grew up. The piece drew a stark contrast between the region’s heavy industrial past—during which the Naugatuck River was heavily polluted—and the collapse of that industry and subsequent return of the river’s ecosystem. In collapsing centuries of history into a few minutes, it offered a thoughtful meditation on what was gained and what was lost when all those factories were built, and in turn, when they all shut down.
Marion Belanger, “River,” 2014.
Taken all together, CT (un)Bound offers a vision of the state’s past and future and our own place in it. And the pieces are just a lot of fun to look at. You’ll have the chance to check it out yourself at Artspace until January 31, 2015.