Korean contemporary artist Koo Jeong A is recognised for her poetic paintings, sculptures and site-specific architectural projects that examine notions of space and transformation.Read More
Since the 1990s, Koo has primarily engaged with quotidian objects and spaces to interrogate moments of transformation, in particular between the visible and invisible, familiar and strange or ambivalent material states. In addition to the more conventional mediums of painting, drawing, photography and sculpture, Koo has also worked with new digital technologies such as 3D animation and augmented reality.
Recurring throughout Koo's practice is the term 'Ousss', a conceptual space that provides the starting point for many of her works, without having a distinct form or definition. Ousss is not intended to be a legible or graspable concept and has manifested in various states. It is a four-letter word in the colour photograph Ouss (2001), seemingly written in contrails against the blue sky or the suffix in the 3D animation MYSTERIOUSSS (2017), whose child-like protagonist explores a dark, ambiguous space.
Among Koo's iconic works are her glow-in-the-dark skate parks, first installed in 2012 as the culmination of a four-year project at Vassivière Island, France. Named OTRO, the 2,300 square foot concrete sculpture-park consists of tunnels and curves dug into the ground, forming a hypnotic, immersive environment at night.
Koo's skate parks have since been installed at multiple locations across the world, including Liverpool and São Paulo in 2016, and in Seoul as part of her solo exhibition 2020 at PKM Gallery. Also included in 2020 was 'Seven Stars' (2020), a series of canvases painted with acrylic paint and phosphorescent pigment. In the dark, the stars glowed in layers of green light, oscillating between two- and three-dimensional images reminiscent of outer space.
Koo's ongoing interest in the potential of magnets as a sculptural medium derives from her research into the work of Cedric Price, whose 1997 architectural project 'Magnet' proposed ten short-life structures for the urban city. Using pre-cut, mass-produced magnet pieces, Koo creates small- or large-scale sculptures with a predetermined number for each work.
In her solo exhibition Magnet Cities at London's Pilar Corrias in 2018, eight ring magnets compose the work 13/2018, while a large slab of 578 pieces make up 2/2018 (both 2018). At PKM Gallery in 2020, the numbers referred to historic events. The 518 ceramic pieces taking over two adjacent walls in 518 (2020), for example, allude to the May 18 Gwangju Uprising in Korea, while the 911 magnets neatly arranged into a square – save for the eleven on one side – in 911 (2020) recall the September 11 terror attacks. Consisting of small units, Koo's magnet sculptures can be reconfigured into different arrangements, perhaps suggesting the fluidity of interpreting history.
Venturing into new technology, Koo presented her first augmented reality work in 2019, showing Prerequisites 7 at the 58th Venice Biennale. The work comprised an activation of her pen drawings from Nomos Alpha (2018), an artist's book that humorously captures everyday life.
Koo's work density (2019) followed at London's Frieze Sculpture 2019, featuring a translucent ice cube that slowly turns in the air. Travelling to other locations, including the Fondation Beyeler, Somerset House and the Julia Stoschek Collection, density provided an alternative to the traditional mode of exhibiting physical artworks during a pandemic.
The eagle is the central motif of [ Yong Dong ], Koo's solo exhibition at Pilar Corrias in 2022 that draws its yellow-and-red colour scheme from traditional Korean amulets. Combining the form of amulets and the eagle, a bird Koo associates with freedom and strength, paintings such as [ EF Gravissimousss ] and EF__[Inonotousss ] (2022) depict three-headed birds – another auspicious symbol in Korea – on a rocky landscape, each head surveying different directions, as if providing protection in the midst of a global pandemic.
Koo Jeong A has exhibited internationally in solo and group presentations. Koo will represent South Korea at the 60th Venice Biennale in 2024.
Solo exhibitions include: [ Yong Dong ], Pilar Corrias, London (2022); Koo Jeong A, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, New York (2020); Koo Jeong A, KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin (2018–2019); ajeongkoo, Art Sonje Center, Seoul (2017).
Group exhibitions include: Arcimboldo Face to Face, Centre Pompidou-Metz, France (2021); Eternal Now, PKM Gallery, Seoul (2020); The World According to, Pace Gallery, New York (2019); Mondialite, Boghossian Foundation Villa Empain, Brussels (2017); The Sound of Things, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon (2015).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2023