Kukje Gallery’s first exhibition of 2017 showcases work by Ahn Kyuchul in a solo show titled Words Just for You, open from February 21 to March 31. Ahn’s first exhibition at the gallery features a new body of work consisting of discrete objects inspired by primary forms including circles and spheres. One of Korea’s foremost conceptual artists, Ahn uses diverse media including sculpture, drawing, performance, and installation to reflect on everyday objects and language. Ahn’s inter-disciplinary practice explores the way these objects contain both an innate essence as well as utilitarian roles and symbolic meanings that shift depending on their context. The artist translates this exploration of substance and value into artworks that consist either of uniquely constructed sculptures or reworked found objects, reframing everyday things in a new light. Without constraining itself to a particular theme, the exhibition showcases a series of formally and thematically separate works that delve further into his study of objects. This intensive study can be understood as an extension of Ahn’s practice since the 1990s, when his work dramatically expanded the artistic language of Korean art.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, also titled Words Just for You, is an amorphous installation in the K1 Gallery. Consisting of a wood construction covered with thick, grey felt, the work’s dense materiality is designed to absorb all ambient sound; despite this relationship to sound, however, the sculpture cannot contribute any output in return. Words Just for You evokes not just a pervasive physicality but a heavy silence. According to Ahn, this work creates an existential space, 'a vanishing point where all human potential for connection disappears, a black hole that engulfs all of our secrets, and a threshold that leads to a realm beyond truth and falsehood. A space of eternal silence and solitude.'
By creating this powerful monological environment where one can speak yet cannot be heard, Ahn reminds the viewer of failed communication and a sense of futility resulting from the lightness of the spoken words. In response the artist has provided a space in which the viewer can have an encounter characterized by an internal dialogue. The artist’s fundamental critique of social values is inspired both by his interest in art genres such as theatre and literature, as well as his work as a journalist for Art Quarterly. Working professionally for more than seven years in the 1980s, Ahn was profoundly influenced by the social perspective he gained as a journalist. This experience helped shape Ahn’s interest in the relationship between language and everyday objects.
Ahn Kyuchul graduated from Staatliche Akademie der Bildende Künste Stuttgart in 1995 after completing both undergraduate and graduate programs. He is currently a professor at the School of Visual Arts, Korea National University of Arts. Major solo exhibitions by the artist include Hyundai Motor Series 2015 – Invisible Land of Love (2015), All and but Nothing (2014) at HITE Collection, Alles hat seine Stunde (2013) at the Goethe Institut, and Forty-Nine Rooms (2004) at Rodin Gallery. He was awarded the 19th Kim Se Choong Sculpture Award in 2005. Ahn’s works are in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea; Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art; Amorepacific Museum of Art; and Wooyang Museum of Contemporary Art (formerly known as Art Sonje Museum). Ahn Kyuchul has also published several printed works including Nine Goldfishes and Water in the Distance (2013), The Man’s Suitcase (2001), and Museum without Painting (1996).
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