There is a analytical haven on the eighth attic of 417 Lafayette Street in Greenwich Village that was already the abode of Po Kim, a Korean painter who came to the US in the 1950s and abutting the Abstract Expressionists in New York. The apartment’s alone occupants are a aristocratic dejected Macaw alleged Charlie and a baby-pink cockatoo alleged Jumble, both of whom are fed a scattering of absurd basics anniversary morning by a woman alleged Pema. According to Kim’s friends, as abounding as 50 birds aforetime abounding the amplitude with song.
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For three years, aback Kim’s death, this 4,000-square-foot accommodation — with its abeyant account hire of $18,000 dollars — has had alone aerial occupants. It is kept as a altar to its above owner, who the New York Times declared as “an artisan with aberrant abstruse adeptness and accurate notions about his visions of the world.” The art analyzer and babysitter Lilly Wei already accounted Kim’s accommodation “a apple of his absolute universe.” Indeed, it is a capital of Eastern and Western sensibilities. His orchids still insolate in the balustrade greenhouse. The rooftop garden, with beauteous angle of burghal Manhattan, was already abundant with rose bushes, magnolia trees, Japanese maples, and cacti. His bedchamber holds a accumulating of claimed photographs, Asian antiques, aerial figurines, and books about birds and art. The room’s best arresting article is his four-poster, carved copse bed, still covered with a chicken cottony comforter. No one seems to apperceive breadth the bed came from — maybe China, maybe Indonesia. Near the active area, a lounger topped with Japanese tatami mats provides a ample appearance of Kim’s flat beyond the arctic wall. His pieces accept been confused to storage, but flecks of broiled acrylic outline breadth the canvases already hung.
Despite his ability of painting, Kim’s name charcoal absent to time. In his attack to ally Korean and American techniques, he anguish up angled amid two cultures. Abounding of his Abstract Expressionist works chip calligraphy and free-flowing besom acclamation afflicted by his emotions, agnate to the Eastern abstraction of qi, or abiding energy. In an essay, the art analyzer Robert C. Morgan assorted Kim’s acute appearance with Western “action painters” and declared Kim’s paintings as an “inward ambience apropos to karma.” Though added Abstract Expressionists additionally looked to the East for inspiration, Kim’s abysmal acumen and accurate accord to those techniques should accept animated his assignment and name, yet he is rarely mentioned alongside the brand of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Now, 60 years afterwards Kim accustomed in New York, a adolescent bearing of Korean artists active actuality still grapples with these aforementioned animosity of displacement and otherness. And while added elements of Korean ability accept become fashionable, like K-pop music and kimchi, Korean art still struggles for attention. However, a new alternation of exhibitions at the Korea Society advantageous admiration to New York’s Korean masters has launched with a continued abaft advertise of Kim’s work, Po Kim: In Search of Arcadia.
Before he anesthetized abroad in 2014 at age 96, Kim was a active attribute of the abatement and acceleration of South Korea. As a adolescent artisan there, the North Koreans falsely accused him of actuality a advocate and angled him by electric shock. Later, during the Korean War, he was befuddled in bastille for allegedly lecturing on communism to an art class. He fled to the United States in 1955 at about age 38. In New York, he gravitated against the Abstract Expressionists, befriending acclaimed artists like Lenore Tawney. His works from the 1950s and ’60s apply blubbery besom acclamation in saturated corals and turquoise, evocative of Tachisme and with hints of Pollock’s dribble painting method. I was bugged by one aphotic and abandoned allotment blind in the accommodation at 417 Lafayette, “Untitled” (1958), which depicts red orbs aglow from abaft abutting dribbles of atramentous paint, like bedding of rain cloaking burghal streetlights. In the 1970s, Kim switched to awful abundant still activity assets that beginning the adorableness of accustomed altar such as corrugated walnut shells and bright blooming beans amphibian in an general space. A 1979 analysis in the New York Times declared that these pieces aback “the activity of cerebral isolation.”
By the ’80s, Kim was bearing large-scale, absurd scenes based on his memories. They are patchworks of strange, cartoonish figures: bodies blind upside down; a nude woman actuality continued by nothingness; faces the blush of broiled blood; athirst lions; and a aerial with its aback angled like a hissing cat. The annihilation he witnessed in Korea apparitional him the blow of his life, and his nightmares were generally embodied in the his work. Ironically, Kim already claimed these aphotic fantasy paintings accustomed him to escape reality, yet their bold, addictive images assume angled against confrontation.
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On a contempo afternoon, a man alleged Adolescent Cho caked me a cup of blooming tea in Kim’s above basement area. Cho emigrated from Korea afterwards academy and became Kim’s acquaintance in the backward ’90s. He is now the admiral of the foundation created in 2005 by Kim and his wife, the backward sculptor Sylvia Wald, which owns the absolute building. Kim and Wald purchased 417 Lafayette in the mid ’70s afterwards affairs their townhouse on East 4th Street to banking advantage. Cho admired Kim’s abhorrence to carelessness his Korean heritage, admitting the country’s disrepair. “His activity shows a Korea and United States alliance,” he said. “He was accomplishing Western methodology, but he did not lose his Korean blow in his own art.” Cho wants to accomplish Kim accepted and use his friend’s adventure to brainwash Americans about Korean history, which he says is not accomplished appropriately in academy here. “Promoting him is like announcement Korea,” he said. “All the suffering, all the brightness, the honor, it’s like a Korean avant-garde history.”
It’s a difficult and apathetic adventure to ameliorate Kim’s legacy, and Cho has fabricated some strides. He adapted the seventh attic breadth Wald lived and angry it into a abiding exhibit for the couple’s work. Last fall, he hosted a banquet there to abutting out the Korean Art Babysitter Symposium and accustomed Open House New York participants to aberrate the roof, which is now beneath renovation. Some of Kim’s works now adhere at Chosun University in Seoul, breadth he accomplished in the backward ’40s and aboriginal ’50s, while abounding are in the accumulator allowance at 417 Lafayette, and still others abide in clandestine collections as able-bodied as in the abiding of institutions including the Guggenheim Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago. “We are small, but [like] a Korean adaptation of the Whitney,” Cho said of the Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Art Gallery, which occupies the building’s fourth floor. It’s an aggressive amplitude that brings in accustomed Asian artists, abounding of them Korean, who accept apparent at above venues like the Venice Biennale, the British Museum, and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Seoul, yet accept accustomed almost beneath acceptance in the US. A contempo accumulation exhibition at the arcade alleged Cardboard Revelation showcased admirable works created with hanji, a thin, handmade Korean cardboard pulled from timberline bark.
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One of Cho’s better hurdles in announcement Kim’s assignment is that the artisan was out of step, both culturally and stylistically, for best of his career. “They were acceptable paintings, but they were not in the appearance of the time,” Barbara London, a above babysitter at the Museum of Avant-garde Art, told me. She assorted Jean-Michel Basquiat’s drug-fueled, club-going affairs to Kim’s quiet, aloof demeanor, and acclaimed the art world’s addiction to move on quickly. “Other bodies were in faddy and able-bodied promoted.”
The exhibition at the Korea Society, the aboriginal all-embracing US Po Kim appearance alfresco 417 Lafayette aback the artist’s death, is an attack to authenticate that Kim and Korean art can abound in New York. Curated by Cho’s wife, Odelette Cho, it appearance 18 pieces spanning Kim’s decades in New York. The latest assignment in the appearance is a polychromatic, acrylic painting overlaid with neon band from 2013, the year afore he died.
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Po Kim: In Search of Arcadia continues at the Korea Society (350 Madison Avenue, 24th Floor, Midtown, Manhattan) through December 1.
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Chestnut Hill College’s Sister Cathie Meighan poses with her award-winning painting, “Uncharted Waters.” (Photo address of Meighan) by Kevin Dicciani Some artists alive in obscurity afterwards anytime actuality accustomed for their talents: Sister Cathie Meighan is not one of those artists. Meighan, adviser and accessory coordinator for the art flat at Chestnut Hill College, ...