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b. 1964, South Korea

Gimhongsok Biography

Gimhongsok (김홍석) is a South Korean artist known for his hyper-realistic and humorous translations of one material into another. Treading a fine line between appropriation and plagiarism, Gimhongsok challenges the notion of authenticity in artworks and asks the fundamental questions of what constitutes art—materials, processes or forms.

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The deceptive appearances of Gimhongsok's works reflect the artist's fascination with translation. Gimhongsok once explained in an interview with ArtAsiaPacific that he experiences 'the world secondhand', mainly through Western shows on Korean television and Korean translations of English texts in South Korea. His works are textual or non-textual translations themselves, which he begins by choosing a word or a piece of writing. Ignoring the word's original meaning, Gimhongsok associates it with objects and other words until a fictive definition emerges. In works like Material (2012) or Untitled (short people) (2017) the artist's translation manifests itself in sculptures of stacked inflated balloons. Despite their apparent fragility, the balloons stay grounded because they are made of resin and bronze respectively. Both works creates situations that betray the viewer's expectation of the behaviour of a material.

Text is rarely to be believed in Gimhongsok's works, as it poses his fictive narratives as truths. The Talk (2004)—a video he presented at the 2006 Gwangju Biennale—features a professional actor hired to play a foreign worker. Although the worker speaks of his legal rights, the English subtitles narrate the story of a successful Indonesian worker in South Korea. For Bremen Town Musicians (2006–7), the wall text informs the viewer that Gimhongsok has hired Mexican workers to pose in animal costumes for the duration of the exhibition and that he will pay them five dollars per hour. On the contrary, the artist had placed mannequins inside the suits. The discovery of the mannequins and the English subtitles offer the viewer a release from moral anxiety, though the latter comfortably disguises reality. Throughout Gimhongsok's works, realities refuse to depend on text or image—the accepted source of knowledge in the world at large.

In 2008 Gimhongsok introduced 'subsidiary construction' to his work: a concept that appoints by-products of art—discarded cardboard boxes, wrapping papers or trash bags—as the central component of the artwork. For the work A Study on Slanted Hyperbolic Constitution (2010), the artist stacked two cardboard boxes at an angle. Posing ordinary objects as art, Gimhongsok echoed Marcel Duchamp's revolutionary concept that it is the artist's intention that gives birth to an artwork.

Many of Gimhongsok's works reference other artists' works. Bremen Town Musicians, for instance, borrows the formal motif of stacked animals from Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan's Love Lasts Forever (1999) and the practice of hiring workers—though in Gimhongsok's case a fictional task—from Spanish artist Santiago Sierra. The title A Study on Slanted and Hyperbolic Constitution, on the other hand, references the form of David Smith's modernist sculptures, while the stack of boxes that forms the letters 'L O V E' from the sides recalls Robert Indiana's ground-breaking typography. Gimhongsok's appropriation of primarily Western artists highlights the ambivalent position non-Western artists occupy in the mainstream art world. Long regarded as 'the other,' contemporary Asian artists face the challenge of assimilating themselves into the Western-dominated art history while their identities become subjects for art.

Gimhongsok is also known through certain collaborative works as Xijing Men, an art collective he founded with Chen Shaoxiong (China) and Tsuyoshi Ozawa (Japan) in 2006. Xijing, which means 'Western Capital' in Chinese, is a fictional city the three artists created to reflect the contemporary world they live in. Though without physical form, Xijing materialises through exhibitions and artworks. In 2008 Xijing Men presented Xijing Olympics: a performance video wherein the three artists played various sports games with their own rules. The humorous rendition, which substituted soccer balls with watermelons and guns with loaves of bread, satirised the capitalisation of the Olympic Games simultaneous to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

After graduating from Seoul National University in 1987, Gimhongsok completed his postgraduate studies in Germany. He is a frequent presence at international biennales and art fairs including Gwangju (2012, 2006, 2002), Lyon (2009), Istanbul (2007), Art Basel (2007), Venice (2005, 2003) and Taipei (2000). The artist currently works and lives in Seoul.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018

Gimhongsok Featured Artworks

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Public Blank – Everyday Monument by Gimhongsok contemporary artwork
GimhongsokPublic Blank – Everyday Monument, 2011–2014Pen and watercolor on paper, framed
52.7 x 40 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Canine construction - small by Gimhongsok contemporary artwork
GimhongsokCanine construction - small, 2013Bronze
89 x 105 x 47 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled (Short People) - 6 balloons by Gimhongsok contemporary artwork
GimhongsokUntitled (Short People) - 6 balloons, 2018Stone, urethane paint on stainless steel
111 x 50 x 37 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
TBD by Gimhongsok contemporary artwork
GimhongsokTBD, 2019Bronze
88 x 56 x 197 cm
Tina Kim Gallery Contact Gallery
A Balloon (blue) by Gimhongsok contemporary artwork
GimhongsokA Balloon (blue), 2013Cast resin
26 x 18.5 x 17 cm
Not for sale
Asia Art Archive
Surrender - Kim by Gimhongsok contemporary artwork
GimhongsokSurrender - Kim, 2018High-strength grout cement
97 x 40 x 30 cm
Tina Kim Gallery Contact Gallery

Gimhongsok Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Gimhongsok, Short People at Kukje Gallery, Busan
26 June–9 September 2020 Gimhongsok Short People Kukje GalleryBusan
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, kukje ON at Kukje Gallery, Online Only, Seoul
22 April–31 May 2020 Group Exhibition kukje ON Kukje GalleryOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Gimhongsok, Dwarf, Dust, Doubt at Tina Kim Gallery, New York
25 October–22 December 2018 Gimhongsok Dwarf, Dust, Doubt Tina Kim GalleryNew York

Gimhongsok Represented By

Kukje Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Kukje Gallery Busan, Seoul
Tina Kim Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Tina Kim Gallery New York

Gimhongsok In Ocula Magazine

Fake Furries Feature in Art Basel Hong Kong's Encounters Section Ocula News Fake Furries Feature in Art Basel Hong Kong's Encounters Section Hong Kong, 28 January 2020

The fair's most Instagrammable section will feature 12 works, including Gimhongsok's fictitious furries and textile off-cuts by Marion Baruch.

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In Memory of a Free Public: Harbour Arts Sculpture Park Ocula Feature In Memory of a Free Public: Harbour Arts Sculpture Park By Hera Chan, Hong Kong

It was at Tamar Park that the initial sit-ins took place around the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, sparking the Umbrella Movement in 2014. Thousands of students advocated for universal suffrage in the response to electoral reforms enacted on Hong Kong by China's Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. It was here, on 26 September...

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Gimhongsok In Related Press

Asian artists meet in 'City of Xijing' Related Press Asian artists meet in 'City of Xijing' 3 June 2015, Kwon Mee-yoo

Visitors are required to go through some procedures to enter an imaginary city of Xijing at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Seoul's Gallery 5. At "the port of entry," all visitors have to oblige to at least one of the three regulations — wear a bright smile, sing a tune from a song or do a charming...

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In Gimhongsok's new exhibition Good Labor Bad Art at PLATEAU, Samsung Museum of Art, one should be cautious about believing what one sees. The viewer first encounters Canine Construction (2009) just outside the gallery entrance and this fabrication of stuffed black plastic bags is an unmistakable appropriation of Jeff Koons's Balloon Dog...

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Gimhongsok's Canine Construction Related Press Gimhongsok's Canine Construction 10 April 2013, QAGOMA

Recently acquired for the Collection, _Canine Constructio_n 2009 by South Korean artist Gimhongsok is both likeable and enigmatic. The sculpture features in 'The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT7) which closed Sunday 14 April. Gimhongsok's work is characterised by a deadpan humour. His references to art history and...

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Gimhongsok In Video & Audio

Dispatches From Korea | 
In the Studio with Gimhongsok Related Video & Audio Dispatches From Korea | In the Studio with Gimhongsok 13 January 2021, Tina Kim Gallery

Step inside the playful studio of Gimhongsok. The artist sat down with Tina Kim to discuss his recent practice, inspirations, and the future of art made during the pandemic. Surrounded by—and at times inhabiting—his character sculptures, Gim touches on the jovial nature of his work. But beneath the humor, is a careful examination of the ethics of...

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