Climbing walls to enter a larger world

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Climbing walls to enter a larger world

The globetrotting photographer Kim Yong-ho, finds his native country to be an isolated place, both geographically and culturally. Thus, he says, for every Korean there is a wall to climb over.
This thought inspired a vast photographic project of Koreans who have succeeded on the global stage. “Beyond the Wall” is currently showing at the Avenuel Gallery in downtown Seoul. The event is one of many commemorating the 60th anniversary of Korean Liberation.
Of more than 100 medium-size photographs, both color and black-and-white, which are displayed in the gallery as well as the Avenuel department store, about 80 are portraits of 27 notable Koreans with critically acclaimed careers who live overseas and in Korea. All have painstakingly climbed walls tall and wide to reach where they are today.
While pictures of the actress Moon So-ree, the filmmaker Kim Ki-duk, the “Nanta” creator Song Seung-hwan, and the musicians of Orientango were taken in Seoul, the rest were photographed in a dozen cities Mr. Kim traveled to this summer.
The portraits are interspersed with landscapes of the cities ― from New York City to Sttugart to Paris to Washington D.C. “The city and its atmosphere play a vital role in affecting the creative world of an artist,” he said. “So along with portraits, I wanted to display the cityscape in which the artists live.”
The gallery is also showing a five-minute video of his famous subjects in action.
His portraits are uniquely personal, showing the stars in their element.
Mr. Kim captured the elegant posture of the soprano Jo Sumi as she spoke to the European press on a sweltering day in June just before her sell-out concert with Jose Carreras at Athens’ Herod Atticus Theater.
Doori Jung, an emerging designer in the New York fashion scene, is lost in her laborious stitching inside her atelier atop her parents’ dry cleaner in New Jersey.
Jeanette Lee, one of the world’s top-ranked pool players, pierces into the lens like her nickname ― the “black widow” about to devour her prey ― framed by the sharp lines and stark contrasts of the pool hall.
For the image of the ballerino Kim Yong-geol, a member of the Palais L’Opera Ballet in Paris, the photographer asked him to dance in the middle of the bustling Troncadero Plaza and in front of the Eiffel Tower.
“At first, he refused, saying ballerinos only dance on the stage,” Mr. Kim recalled. “But I was persistent, telling him that artists had to climb the walls of their genres to be truly free. So he agreed.”
The result is a series of stunningly beautiful freeze-frames of the lean dancer leaping into the air.
What touched the Korean photographer most was his encounter with Choi Hee-seop, the L.A. Dodger’s first baseman.
“The presence of this young, two-meter-tall Asian man ―?he’s only 25 ―about to conquer the vast stadium under the open sky, was an overwhelming sight for me,” he said. “He became me, I became him. I found my young self there ― ready to climb up the walls of life all over again.”

by Ines Cho

The exhibition “Beyond the Wall,” which began Saturday, is having an opening reception tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. at Andrea, located atop the Avenuel department store in Myeongdong in central Seoul. Fusion band Orientango will make a special guest performance. The exhibition is running until Oct. 23. The gallery is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Free admission. For more information, call Culture ’n Company at 02-512-3738 or Lotte Avenuel at 02-771-2500.
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