JULY 10 – JULY 21, 2007

Curated by Hyewon Yi

Artists: Kyungwoo Han / Haegeen Kim / Shin Il Kim / Sangwoo Koh

Dooeol Lee/ Jia Lim / Sukwon Shin / Haeri Yoo

White Box is pleased to host Fresh Illusions: The AHL Foundation Visual Arts Award Winners 2006 & 2007, an exhibition highlighting the work of eight Korean artists living and working in the United States. The AHL Foundation is a nonprofit organization formed in 2003 to support Korean artists living in the United States and to promote exposure of their work in today’s competitive contemporary art world.

In 2004, the foundation established an annual art competition that is open to all artists of Korean ancestry living in the United States. AHL awards four monetary prizes each year and mounts a biennial exhibition to display the winning works. A jury of three prominent art critics selects the competition finalists on the basis of artistic excellence. In 2006, the three jurors were Saskia Bos, Eleanor Heartney, and Lilly Wei; in 2007, Robert Berlind, Marcin Ramocki, and Lilly Wei.

The eight winners of the AHL Foundation Visual Arts Competition 2006 & 2007 reflect the experimentation and vitality that characterized the submissions of both years, and manifest a high level of technical skill, be it in painting, sculpture, installation, video, photography or drawing. The particular strength of the artists in the exhibition Fresh Illusions is their use of media as a reference or as material itself. The video Rock the World by Sukwon Shin (first-place winner, 2006) is a fast-paced comedy lobbed at the present Bush administration. Produced in an MTV-format, it caricaturizes George Bush and Colin Powell as aspiring, improbable rock stars. Kyungwoo Han (second-place winner, 2007) offers Red Cabinet, a live video installation in which visitors can experience the real space of a set consisting of cabinet, fabric, table, and props that appear as standard color bars on a television monitor. Dooeol Lee (third-place winner, 2006) presents an idiosyncratic video featuring sloppy digital drawing that seems to grow over still photographic images. The television monitor she employs is a sculpture itself, decorated on the surface with repellent convex spheres. Shin Il Kim (fourth-place winner, 2007) makes hundreds of drawings scored into white paper, then animates them, creating effects such as water rushing behind paper. Kim’s other video, “In Between,” shows a spectator standing absolutely still before a large wall-hung painting in which a man walks about, reversing real and fictive space.

Two artists showcase their skill and creativity in more traditional mediums. Haegeen Kim (second-place winner, 2006) presents delicate graphite and color-pencil drawings of imagined deadpan portraits that magnify details. Haeri Yoo (first-place winner, 2007) unleashes raw emotion and wild, sexually fraught imagination in her sculptures and wall paintings made expressly for this exhibition.

Two other artists deal directly with identity issues in their work. In her 3D animation video Avatar Due—Home Spring, Jia Lim (third-place winner, 2007) addresses trans-cultural, post-ethnic concerns by having blue-eyed, Caucasian-looking avatars sing traditional Korean children’s song, touching the issue of mixed-race children and the brave new cyber-progeny of the future. Sangwoo Koh (fourth-place winner, 2006), a photographer, explores identity constructs and inversions of gender as he transformed himself into a non-Asian woman, subverting stereotypes of sexuality, race and photographic truth through boldly colored images that are negative/positive reversed.

As juror Lilly Wei remarks in her introductory essay, “Korean artists in the United States … may have a distinct vantage point, a distinct context, but they are not necessarily always intent on specifically addressing that difference, that particular otherness that compounds the otherness of simply being an artist.” Wei concludes that while “many might be designated Korean-Americans, their ‘diasporic imagination’ once ‘steeped in continuous ambivalence’ (a term and observation offered by Ien Ang, a Chinese-Australian scholar of culture) is now tempered, transformed into something else, something that exists in the hyphen/hyperlink between Korean and American.”

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support and sponsorship of AHL Foundation. A 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit organization. Additional support was provided by Korean Cultural Services, The Korea Times, Mill Korean Restaurant, and Red Bull.