Press Release

First US Museum Presentation of Korean Artist Suki Seokyeong Kang Opens this Spring

Philadelphia, PA
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Sculpture, Painting, and Video Influenced by Classical Korean Artistic Traditions Explores the Spatial Rhythm Between Object and Viewer

Opening on April 27, 2018, the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA) will mount the first US museum presentation of Seoul-based contemporary artist Suki Seokyeong Kang. Featuring the debut of Kang’s ambitious project, Black Mat Oriole (2018), which presents an expanded approach to painting and an activation of space through a choreographed installation and an immersive video triptych. Bringing together sculpture, painting, textiles, and video, which draw on classical Korean traditions, the artist will create a landscape that engages viewers with the power and politics of space. Suki Seokyeong Kang: Black Mat Oriole is curated by Alex Klein (Dorothy and Stephen R. Weber (CHE ’60) Curator at ICA) and Kate Kraczon (Laporte Associate Curator at ICA) and will be on view through August 12, 2018. 

“Although Suki Seokyeong Kang’s work has been shown around the world, more recently at the 2016 Gwangju Biennale, this exhibition marks her first US presentation and we’re excited to give our audiences the opportunity to engage directly with her thought-provoking exploration of space and objecthood,” said Amy Sadao, Director of ICA. “Emerging from a younger tradition of artists who have trained abroad, Suki’s work offers a new and fresh perspective that is situated within a broader international conversation, bridging her Korean roots and Western education. Through this exhibition, the ICA continues to provide our visitors some of the earliest opportunities to experience the work of emerging artists as they gain momentum in the art world, and we’re honored to show the realization of Kang’s first major project Black Mat Oriole as she continues to rise in prominence and recognition.” 

Anchoring the exhibition is the stunning Black Mat Oriole video, an ambitious work five years in the making, in which Kang has created an immersive narrative influenced by the flow and movement found within classical Korean poetry, calligraphy, and dance but is firmly rooted in the contemporary landscape. Specifically inspired by the choreography found in the historical Korean dance “Chunaengmu,” which was performed for royalty and adhered to strict codes of court etiquette, Kang explores how a space can be divided into grids defined by power and cultural customs. The exchange of movement and interplay in the installation will be navigated through freestanding frame-like structures fashioned into geometric patterns and abstract paintings. Both immersive and interactive, audiences will be able to step into and activate a fluid environment, navigating the shifting relationship between their own bodies and the objects.

Additional highlights include sculptures that reflect the weight and tangibility of everyday objects; “hwamunseok,” traditional Korean mats handwoven with sedge reeds that grow on Ganghwa Island; and a special performance the weekend of the exhibition opening that will include a new “activation” directed by Kang featuring Seoul-based dancers. The tactile, sensory, and textured nature of Kang’s works, many of which incorporate repurposed materials sourced directly from factories in South Korea, will help form a physical connection between the objects and the viewer, creating a dynamic and interactive relationship to the surrounding space. 

“Kang’s work both complicates how we understand the experience of painting and acts as a metaphor for how individuals have agency within the political sphere. In our current geopolitical moment, her questioning of borders and boundaries is more relevant than ever,” said Alex Klein, the Dorothy and Stephen R. Weber (CHE ’60) Curator at ICA. Kate Kraczon, ICA’s Laporte Associate Curator, added: “Kang thinks of the way bodies move through her spaces as scripted. There’s an anthropomorphic quality to the sculptures that is reflected in the way her actors interface with the objects in her video work.”

To mark the opening of the exhibition, Korean performers Heyongjun Cho and Hongseok Jang will be conducting a special activation of Suki’s work on Sunday, April 29 at 2.00pm. The event will then be followed by a discussion with the artist.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue designed by Seoul-based design studio Sulki & Min featuring essays by the curators and an interview between the artist and Maria Lind, Director of Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm.


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Suki Seokyeong Kang, Black Mat Oriole, Gwangju Biennial Installation view, 2016; courtesy of the artist and the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania

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