Saturday, July 4, 2009

Art Can Be Scary

Got to give the curators of the Seoul Museum of Art some credit--who indeed would run a show like 'Dissonant Visions' at the same time they were presenting an important retrospective on Pierre-Auguste Renoir? And who would go to see the one without looking at the other?

They would, and I would. I may pop in on the Renoir later (it leaves at the end of August), but it costs 10,000 W and the lines are ever so long. Meanwhile, I read a piece about the other show at the Korea Herald, and it sounded way more interesting for 700 W (about four or five bits, USD).

After being veritably scalped at the Well-Being Hair Salon today (no, no pictures), I eventally made my way to Seoul's City Hall metro station (lines 1 and 2, also a stone's throw from Seodaemun, line 5), the stop nearest to the art museum. As it happened I arrived just as the crowds were gathering in front of Daehanmun for the changing of the guard ceremony at Deoksugung, so I decided to stick around and wait for it.

I've seen it before, here at Deoksugung, when Ben came to visit, as well as at Gyeongbokgung back in February when I saw it twice. Still, it's such a colorful ceremony, here are a few more photos:

Can you spot the American brands in the photos below?
Dunkin DonutsOh Thank Heaven for 7-11

And a video:

Anyway, let's move on to the exhibit I came to see, shall we?

Well, I found the exhibition 'Dissonant Visions' both gross and engrossing, as I suspect the curators intended. Images ranged from the silly to the nifty to the disturbing. One of the first ones to strike you as you go through is this:

A giant womb excreted a crocodile, who barfed a lot of tinsel. Did nothing for me. However, next were a series of dragon-type creatures sculpted from automobile tires--these, I liked a lot:

The tread of the tires, and the way they are cut and placed, created organisms lithe, sinewy and--being black--automatically threatening.

This series of busts whose outer decoration seems to evoke their inner lives seemed rather pat, but I like soccer, so I took a photo:

In this multi-level piece (there is a shadow cast against the third wall, also) it appears as if life is supported by a super-complex machinery devised by madmen. OR life supports a super-madman-like machinery with even the simplest plant fronting a bizarre apparatus as shown.

Possibly the most disturbing vista of the exhibition was a multimedia installation in which Dr Moreau-evoking sculptures fronted goliath paintings of mutilated faces. To wit:

So, okay, that's strange. Still, you study it the same way you can't look away from a car crash--and I think that's part of the point.

The next room had a series called "Flowers" (#2, #3, etc)...

...and just as I was about to get a close-up of the most interesting one, a docent--actually a minimum wage art student--told me photos were not allowed. So, you'll have to guess what it looked like, but it was more extreme, and also more organic, than these.

Fortunately, I was nearing the end of the tour when this happened, and other than one other artist's work, I wasn't all that impressed, so I made my way out. While looking around the plaza in front of the museum, I noticed some familiar figures on top of the light poles, which I think are sculptures by Jeong Guk-taek (click here and scroll to the bottom):

Here is my photo of Jeong's sculpture in front of the Somerset in Insa-dong:


Charles Montgomery said...

If you only had one exhibit to see, you saw the right one. ;-)

We saw Dissonant/Renoir/and there is another exhibit upstairs of a Korean painter. We both agreed Renoir came in third.

There's just not a lot to look at after awhile. His pastelly happiness bored us in bulk although it was interesting to watch his brushstrokes disappear as his arthritis worsened.

We went noonish on Saturday and waltzed through. By the time we came out, the lines were hideous.

Chris said...

I think the same sculptor made the statues at my building as well.

Chris said...

Next time you're at Kang-seo-gu main intersection, along the Gimpo Highway Road, check out the "statue" next to the building which has the TGIF (south-west corner). For months I thought it was a telephone pole that had been hit and was just crooked awaiting repair. Then suddenly one night I realized there were people on the very top of the pole, who might be these same people as your last photo. I've always been whooshing by, and never had a chance to study it closely.