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Indepth Arts News:

"Ban/Ban: Four American and Four Korean Aritists"
2001-06-04 until 2001-08-18
Richmond Art Center
Richmond, CA, USA United States of America

A group exhibition of four American artists and four Korean artists, members of the Young Artists Association of Seoul and San Francisco: Sung-Joon Hwang, SoYoung Jun, HunChung Lee, Kyung-Hee Lee, Christopher Novak, Ray Beldner, Julie Blankenship, and Jann Nunn. The Ban/Ban exhibition features artists who are making a combination of individual artworks and site-specific installations that address contemporary social and cultural issues.

The title, Ban/Ban, expresses the relationship between the pairing of two counterparts. Similar to English, ban means anti in Korean. The word also carries a second meaning of half. Due to these multiple translations, Ban/Ban can mean both against/against and half/half, representing the relationships between opposite pairings such as North/South, East/West and male/female. Ban/Ban was first presented at the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation Gallery in Seoul, Korea.

HunChung Lee creates site-specific installations using a variety a materials to explore his interest in the symbolic meaning of individual objects and the juxtaposition of unusual elements. For this installation, Lee uses Korean and American cookies, candies and crackers to create a pattern of shapes. The work allows the viewer to consider the unusual aspect of the medium while experiencing the aesthetic organization.

Kyung-Hee Lee's conceptual, mixed media, interactive computer artworks explore aspects of how she understands herself. She is interested in investigating her physical being, her spiritual being, how she appears from the outside of her body, how she appears from the inside of her body and how her body is informed by her sense of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.

Ray Beldner's mixed media sculpture is based on his interest in how America is inextricably linked with the division of, the military presence in, and the reunification of the Korean peninsula during the last fifty years. General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the troops during the Korean War, played a pivotal role in Korean history when he pushed beyond the boundaries of his mission and was ultimately relieved of duty by President Truman in 1951. In recognition of these events, Beldner has created a six foot tall bust of the General made of kimchi, the traditional Korean food of seasoned cabbage. Through this project, Beldner unites the two countries by combining two traditional products of each country into a humorous, temporary monument to the General that conceptually embodies his two most famous statements: I shall return and Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.

Julie Blankenship's work explores the process by which capitalism's mass media systems exert control over one's mental and physical existence, an issue which relates to all cultures who are affected by the world's economic consumer system. The focus of Blankenship's installation is the story of Madame Bovary, who first appeared in the nineteenth century French novel written by Gustave Flaubert. In the novel, Bovary marries a country doctor to escape her middle-class social status, only to find herself caught in a banal and commonplace marriage. Searching for happiness in extra marital affairs she becomes obsessed with cultivating an elegant and luxurious existence well beyond her family's means. In her installation, Blankenship explores this story by including a visual representation of Bovary and a contemporary version of her thoughts and desires (such as expensive consumer items) listed on a cascading paper receipt. Also included in the installation is an audio recording of a thirty minute sound track of Madame Bovary tallying her spending indiscretions totaling $427,439.14 U.S. dollars.

Sung-Joon Hwang's work is an exploration of the systemic patterning of images and Confucian concepts of social order and organization. For this exhibition, Hwang constructed a large installation of 124 prints. Each 14 x 18 print has a similar black image of a simple geometric shape, reminiscent of an upside-down rain drop or an abstracted human head. The printed images are arranged in a formal, overlapping grid pattern, suspended from the gallery ceiling at the height of fifteen feet tall.

SoYoung Jun creates paintings and mixed media fabric works that explore the relationships between contemporary concepts of female identity, imagery from traditional Korean culture and contemporary American art trends. A recurring theme in several canvases is a silhouetted figure of a young man, taken from a Korean painting that was one of Jun's favorites as a small child. In Ming dynasty paintings, executed in the classical, literati Korean style, a young man bows as he receives the mantel of Confucian prestige and power. By appropriating this image, Jun explores the relationship of patriarchal power and influence to her personal experiences.

Christopher Novak creates work based on a conceptual examination of contemporary culture. Over the past 10 years, his work has covered a broad range of media, focusing on the relationships between natural and synthesized environments, the gaps and shifts of meaning in communication and the construction of alternative narrative forms.

Jann Nunn's 5 foot wide and 65 foot long fabric banner entitled, Aigo Chukketta (On the Verge of Dying), spans the length of the gallery. The banner is composed of two enlarged and elongated images, one of the American flag and one of the Korean flag. The two flags meet and merge in the center. The ends of the banner are suspended at the gallery ceiling, allowing the mid-section to drape down and nearly touch the floor. The piece addresses the complexities of the international relationship between the United States and Korea. This piece and the intertwining of two symbolic icons is a powerful presence within the context of this exhibition.

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