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Indepth Arts News:

"Threshold: Byron Kim 1990-2004"
2006-07-08 until 2006-08-17
Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington
Seattle, WA, USA United States of America

The Henry Art Gallery presents Threshold: Byron Kim 1990 - 2004, on view from July 8 through September 17, 2006. The exhibition offers an overview of the artist's career, presenting four major bodies of paintings that Kim has produced since 1989. An "unlikely blend of abstraction and representation, of conceptualism and sensuality, is what makes Kim's work so compelling," writes Constance Lewallen in the Introduction to the exhibition catalogue. Kim's paintings are visually subtle compositions that merge aspects of Minimalist abstraction with evocative representation, while confronting issues of race, community, and cultural biases.

For the past decade Byron Kim has maintained a steadfast commitment to exploring the potential content of abstract painting, drawing on post-war traditions of monochrome painting exemplified by Ad Reinhardt's black paintings and Brice Marden's waxy fields of color, as well as by Mark Rothko and other New York School painters of the abstract sublime.

Color in its various aspects - as fact, as signifier, and as metaphor - continues to dominate Kim's work. The exhibition includes works from several series that have occupied Kim during the last decade. These include small canvases whose colors pinpoint particular events and places in his childhood, such as Miss Mushinski (First Big Crush), 1996, and 1984 Dodge Wagon, 1994; a series based on celadon pottery of Asia (Koryō Green Glaze #1, 1995-96), and wall-sized landscapes inspired by poet William Wordsworth (I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, 1997). His Sunday Paintings - sky studies ą la John Constable - include the addition of text, forming a kind of personal journal for the artist. 

Synecdoche (1991-present) was featured in the 1993 Whitney Biennial. A grid of hundreds of 8 x 10-inch panels - each painted a single shade of peach, beige, or brown, matched to people's skin colors and rendered from life by the artist. Synecdoche is in essence a group portrait that expands to address issues of race and community.

Kim wrote about this work in progress in "An Attempt at Dogma" (Godzilla Newsletter, 1992):

In a sense these paintings are representational, even figurative.... Synecdoche as a whole will have the look of a huge, formalist painting. This tradition in art has been an elite tradition, and the group of people allowed to gain prominence within the bounds of this tradition is a highly exclusionary club. Like all good abstract and romantic monochrome paintings (and as its title suggests) Synecdoche will imply a much larger, boundary-less work. While I want these chips of brown and beige to push in and pull back and give visual pleasure, I also want them to have the mundane flicker of an art that is inclusive as a matter of fact.

Byron Kim lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, was born in La Jolla, California, in 1961. He studied art at Yale and at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, and, curator Eugenie Tsai writes, "came of age as an artist in the early 1990s, a moment when buzzwords like 'multiculturalism' and 'identity politics' ruled the day, and artists and institutions attempted to come to terms with the thorny relationship between power in the art world and the politics of race." Kim was thus in tune with other young artists, including friends Glenn Ligon and Janine Antoni, who were investing Minimalist strategies with issues of ethnic and racial identity and personal biography.

Threshold: Byron Kim 1990 - 2004 was conceived by independent curator Eugenie Tsai and organized by Constance Lewallen, Senior Curator for Exhibitions at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. The exhibition has been supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Peter Norton Family Foundation. Presentation at the Henry is organized by Chief Curator Elizabeth Brown made possible by ArtsFund, PONCHO, and donors to the Special Exhibition Initiative. In-kind support provided by Grand Hyatt Seattle.

Byron Kim.
Emmett at Twelve Months. 1994.
Egg tempura on wood.
Collection of Delores and Byungseol An.

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