Perrotin, Hong Kong presents the premiere solo exhibition dedicated to artist gimhongsok in Hong Kong. Showcasing eleven artworks, the exhibition offers an in-depth view of the artist’s recent studies.
gimhongsok: On A Smile
gimhongsok’s series A Study on Slanted and Hyperbolic Constitution at Perrotin Hong Kong displays an unstable stack of corrugated cardboard boxes. The stack of cheap boxes is reminiscent of a pile of waste that can be found in the backstreets of any city. The viewer may become confused upon seeing the tape and rips on the surfaces of these boxes as these insignificant byproducts are placed in the context of art. In another work, the artist has stacked the boxes and wrapped them in a protective outer layer, the astounding realism of which causes the viewer to question the work’s artistic and aesthetic values. However, the boxes and the wrappings are not actually real. The stacked oblong objects are hyper-realistic resin fabrications.
The viewer is prompted to question their own eyes upon realizing the boxes are fabricated as the inauthenticity is noticeable only after very close observation. Here exists an extreme contrast between the hyperrealism and the insignificance of objects’ purpose. This is yet another aspect of these works that many would have difficulty grasping. Like many other gimhongsok’s works, this series requires extreme effort and craftsmanship, but it simultaneously seems futile and silly. The artist invites the viewer to engage in this viewing experience in a traditional art viewing sense. In the case of sculpture wrapped in aluminum foil, what the viewer sees is the work’s wrapping. Because the wrapping is the artwork itself, the viewer goes back and forth between questioning the content inside the wrapping and realizing the futility of such unavailing deliberation. This ambivalent and recursive indication leads the viewer to the irrational repetition or the extinction of meaning. Here, the viewer might be reminded of the concept that an artwork relies on the method that indicates art as art.
gimhongsok has created many works that walk a fine line between appropriation and plagiarism. By intentionally referencing other artists’ works, he has presented works that reversely pose skepticism on the viewer’s faith in artistic identity. A Study on Slanted and Hyperbolic Constitution series is a delicate appropriation of works by renowned American sculptors David Smith and Robert Indiana. The literal meaning of the title emphasizes the Modernist sculptural forms that David Smith has pursued in his work. Simultaneously, the meaning of Slanted and Hyperbolic Constitution can be read as a dual expression.
From the sides, the stack of boxes reads “Love,” an explicit reference to Robert Indiana’s most prominent work. By incorporating renowned American sculptors from mainstream art history in his work, he hints at the obscurity of an artwork while simultaneously dealing with several subjects. He suggests ambiguity as a way to describe the identity of non-Western art, which was once been neglected and considered as ‘the other’ by Western-dominated art history and theory. What
he calls “agreement” is an assemblage of forms that has developed from “Assimilated Differences” which has progressed from 1998 to 2007. Here, “difference” is a fundamental gap that cannot be overcome or closed, and “assimilated” is the embracing internalization that could only ultimately fail. One of the missions that contemporary art presents to a Korean or Asian artist is to become forever an outsider as well as an unavoidable subject, and to actualize an impossible agreement between these divided identities.
“Assimilated Differences appropriates both the originality implied in the differences and the division among the differences. It appropriates history, politics, religion, power, democracy, the public, everyday life, and furthermore, associations of trivial matters. These appropriations imply the placelessness and the disappearance of boundaries, rather than plagiarism.(1)”
gimhongsok’s work stems from writing. The recurrent theme is that power originates from demarcation, which takes place in all layers, from everyday life to political oppression to circulation of capital. He posits that demarcation is strengthened by agreements among the profit-seeking and that an artist emulates this demarcation and fills the inside with other “agreements.”
“When a pedestrian puts an empty bottle in a trash bag on the street, or a trash bag is thrown away on top of another trash bag on the street, the form generates a lot of allegories. A collaboration as such is extremely spontaneous as there has been no certain kind prior agreement among collaborators. The result of such collaboration is a true societal agreement.(2)”
This assemblage of thought gives us a clue as to why appropriation —which is recurrent in his work—leads to dislocation, errors, irony, or empty, pointless jokes, instead of a parody or criticism of the original work. The importance of the original work is inseparable to the institutional hierarchy that the work has established. Hence, it accompanies the reflection of the hierarchy. The “subsidiary construction,” which has appeared in gimhongsok’s work since 2008 is about replacing traditionally central components of art with its byproducts, such as trash bags, discarded boxes, and wrapping paper. By themselves, these materials for the subsidiary construction invoke strong significations and generate pure and exceptional connections to other semantic elements as a result of their voluntariness and unpredictability. gimhongsok’s work presents the most uncompromising utopia that the viewer could ever imagine. His work distances itself from the demarcation and the hierarchy, destroys itself from the meaning, and plays relentlessly with the possibility of humorous oscillation between authority and anti-authority. This is why we find salvation from gimhongsok’s work. I wish the viewer bursts into uncontrollable laughter from looking at the works in this exhibition.