Bizarreness for its own sake defines Leeum’s new show

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Bizarreness for its own sake defines Leeum’s new show

For years, art has provided subtle pleasures. It has made people laugh, weep and reflect.
Some art still does, but one of the increasing trends in contemporary art seems to be bizarreness, as evident in the show “ArtSpectrum 2006,” currently on display at the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art.
The show, which puts together the works of 16 artists, is a biannual exhibition of contemporary Korean artists who work internationally.
One of the most compelling works in the exhibit is Shon Jeong-eun’s “Love,” which examines the art of seduction.
The work, which is composed of bottles in odd shapes, claims to be a magical cosmetic for women that will grant them love when used.
Each bottle is behind plexiglas, with an instruction sheet on top indicating the specific effects and warnings, in such categories as narcissism, composure, elusiveness, hints, reliance and imitations. For example, the bottle of “elusiveness” claims to allow its users to provide an elusive air to men, rendering them unable to know what she is actually thinking about.
The juxtaposition of romantic strategies with make-up was an interesting comment on how people try to create themselves.
One of the most provocative works is a recent collaborative piece by an artist couple Kim Sung-hwan and a nameless “lady from the sea,” called “Flat White Rough Cut.”
Their performance shows the couple taking turns engaging in a series of activities, like drawing patterns in dust on the floor and spreading towels on the grass and rolling around in them.
The video comes with a bizarre, yet captivating narration, which describes each gesture before the artists perform a certain act in the video. One of the highlights of the work is the artist’s Caucasian girlfriend excreting in a plastic container. She closes it with a lid, turns it upside down and then ices it with a strawberry topping, illustrating notions of repulsion and attraction.
The work deals with the complexities of translation, given that the video constantly shifts perspectives between an Asian man and a Caucasian woman.
Jeon Kyung also poses disturbingly realistic scenarios in “Crossing.” The work, a series of drawings in gauche or watercolor on rice paper, depicts cute animated characters that might appear in children’s books engaged in sexual torture or in deadly situations.
One of the notable things about this year’s ArtSpectrum show is that artists have more space to play around with, in part because Leeum has far more room since it moved to Hannam-dong last year.
Jinnie Seo provides a unique spatial installation in her “In Transit” by simply crossings lines and planes around the gallery. Yim Ja-hyuk’s large drawing of a whale was installed on the top of the museum’s ceiling, playing with the idea of visual weight.

by Park Soo-mee

“ArtSpectrum 2006” runs at Leeum through May 14. For a guided tour in English, make a reservation at or call (02) 2014-6555.
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