Kukje Gallery is pleased to present The Other Side of Things, a solo exhibition of the Korean contemporary artist Ahn Kyuchul on view at Kukje Gallery Busan from May 13 to July 4, 2021. Acclaimed for his complex yet delicate artistic vocabulary incorporating reflections on daily life, as well as close observations of everyday objects and language, Ahn has constructed a body of work that remains distinct from today's prevailing trends in contemporary art, which is largely devoted to presenting visual spectacles or multisensory experiences. His visual language, deeply rooted in a conceptual approach and oblique representations of reality, allows viewers to reassess the essence of human nature and objects while confronting the irrationalities and paradoxes of modern life.
Ahn's first ever solo show in Busan provides a survey of the artist's diverse practice and introduces a new chapter in his career following his retirement from the School of Visual Arts, Korea National University of Arts where he taught generations of students. The exhibition, marking the artist's first encounter with local audiences in Busan, will provide a comprehensive overview of Ahn's practice, introducing a range of his signature works.
The title of the exhibition, The Other Side of Things, condenses a central belief that lies at the core of Ahn's artistic practice, 'The truth is not revealed on the surface of an object, but remains hidden on the other side of things.' The exhibition introduces approximately 40 works encompassing objects, paintings, and drawings, including everyday objects that often go unnoticed; this reframing of familiar subjects highlights the artist's steadfast exploration of 'the other side of things' throughout his three-decade-long career.
Ahn lived and worked in Germany between the late 1980s to the early 1990s, a pivotal period that saw the artist liberate himself from the use of traditional materials in order to engage the often contradictory values of modernity. Incorporating everyday objects and language into his practice, Ahn began to articulate what became his unique practice balancing critique and poetry. Many of the works on view in The Other Side of Things provide an interpretation of these early 'object sculptures,' reintroducing them in new or modified, yet more cohesive compositions. 2/3 Society (1991), originally a set of three leather shoes connected in linear format, now forms a circle made of seven leather shoes attached heel to toe, playing on the circle as a metaphor for the interconnected relationships and interactions in our society. The circle and its symbolic social role are also at work in a reconstruction of Solidarity Makes Freedom (1992), with the new version featuring nine—previously three—coats attached together to form a roughly circular form, the title implying a potent albeit abstract message. The work explores the subject of boundaries between the self and others, us and them, inside and outside, and barriers that prevents intrusion. Another work, A Guilty Brush (1990- 91), which consisted of a black shoe brush—has also been modified to depict the word "sin" portrayed in white, gradually fading into the surrounding white bristles.
Ahn's early years as an artist can be defined by an extensive use of modified and reframed everyday objects, which later grew to involve works based on a more architectural scale after his solo exhibition in 2004 at the Rodin Gallery, Seoul—a turning point that led to a shift in perspective. The upcoming exhibition in Busan attempts to revisit a handful of these more ambitious installations—including Room with 112 Doors (2004) and Room of Silence (2015), which were dismantled upon the close of each show, only surviving as archival photographs—in the form of models constructed by the artist.
From Where They Left – Stormy Ocean (2021), is also on view at the gallery. Initially conceived as a collection of 200 paintings depicting the sea, each of these paintings were distributed randomly across the city before the start of the 2012 Gwangju Biennale. Throughout the duration of the biennale, these lost paintings were then sought after by Ahn, who posted signs in search for them. By the end of the event, approximately 20 paintings were returned, leading the artist to display the piece with many parts still 'missing,' as a tribute to those who disappeared after the Gwangju Uprising in 1980. Reproduced in its entirety for the upcoming show, this will mark the first time the work has been staged in its original form. Also on view is the more recent Colors of Promises (2020), which features 69 monochrome paintings that borrow colors from campaign posters for all the Korean presidential candidates between 1967 and 2017, stripped of any slogans or messaging.
Ahn's artistic vocabulary is rooted in his drawings, often wittily executed with relative ease and humor in comparison to the artist's more serious 'object sculptures' and paintings. The 20 pencil drawings exhibited throughout the gallery space provide viewers with a broad overview, framing the artist's ideas and underlying his formal interests while helping them understand the complex critical perspective and working process that underlie Ahn's practice.
Introducing key works that have formed the bedrock of the artist's oeuvre for three decades, The Other Side of Things remains committed to offering a comprehensive understanding of Ahn's artistic career by presenting original works that have undergone various stages of restoration and reinterpretation. The show represents an ambitious attempt by the artist to survey whether his objects, first used for his solo exhibition in 1992, still hold relevance in the present and resonate with contemporary audiences. By bracketing this time period and the way objects mirror social values, Ahn examines how our collective awareness and perception of art have changed over the years.
Meanwhile in March, a compilation of 69 sets of texts and drawings, completed by the artist since 2014 for the literary magazine Hyundae Munhak, was published under the same title The Other Side of Things. The book, which sheds light on Ahn's unique process of appropriating and manually altering ready-made objects and combining them with his own writing, provides an invaluable opportunity to gain insight into Ahn's use of text and drawing as a parallel and complimentary practice.
Born in Seoul, Korea in 1955, Ahn Kyuchul received his BFA in Sculpture from Seoul National University and worked as a journalist for Art Quarterly from 1980 through 1987. He then moved to Paris in 1987, and to Germany in 1988, graduating from the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart in 1995 after completing both undergraduate and graduate programs. From 1997 to 2020, he taught at the School of Visual Arts, Korea National University of Arts. Major solo exhibitions include _Words Just for You, _Kukje Gallery, Seoul (2017); Invisible Land of Love, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2015); _All and but Nothing, _HITE Collection, Seoul (2014); and _Forty-Nine Rooms, _Rodin Gallery, Seoul (2004). Ahn has also participated in numerous group exhibitions at institutions and biennales including _Variations of the Moon, _Nam June Paik Art Center, Yongin (2014); ROUNDTABLE: The 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012); _Void in Korean Art, _Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2007); and _Parallel Life, _Frankfurter Kunstverein (2005).
Press release courtesy Kukje Gallery.