Photographer explores urban landscape

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Photographer explores urban landscape

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The digital photographs by Kang Hong-goo pose a humorous look at the urban landscape of Korea as a result of modernization.
The artist casts himself as the protagonist in stills of fictional films; He shoots sets for period dramas in black and white to make it look as if they are genuine images of old Korea. He uses a character doll from a computer game he found at a construction site near his studio, turning it into a martial arts fighter, and manipulates his images to blur the boundary between fake and real.
The concept may not sound so new.
Post-modernism in art for past decades was all about deconstructing reality. Artists turned to found images and manipulated them into various shapes to appropriate or criticize the means of digital technology in contemporary culture. Yet many of their works were not regarded as serious art, compared to, say, traditional mediums or installations.
There is something rather unusual in “Play with Landscape,” the artist’s latest solo exhibit at Rodin Gallery, however.
The works by Kang, who openly calls himself “a B-rated artist” for using images extracted from advertisements and film stills, are in one of the nation’s most high-brow art institutions, playing with the notion of “low art versus high art.”
The profile of the artist, who doesn’t particularly meet the typical standards of “a certified contemporary artist” in Korea ― that is to have obtained a Masters of Fine Arts degree from art schools overseas and having exhibited at biennales or major shows outside of Korea ― poses an interesting angle to the whole point of the exhibit and the nature of his works.
Kang enrolled in art school to become a painter after years of working as an elementary school teacher. He began by majoring in painting, but turned to photography in order to play with notions concerning popular culture. Even as a conceptual artist, his interest seemed to lie in notions of art outside the traditional realms. The books he has published ― “Beauty of Banality” and “Stories of Art Outside Museums” ― also show his efforts to blur the line between high and low art.
In a way much of his work is loaded with political connotations.
“Scene of Ohosi-ri” depicts a surreal landscape with airplanes flying over clusters of slate roof houses, and depicts an area that was abandoned after its residents were relocated due to noise pollution from the nearby Gimpo Airport. “Mickey’s House-Clouds,” an image of a tiny colorful toy house, was shot against mountains near the artist’s home, which had gone through major demolition to build high-rise apartments.
The photos raise questions about the dislocation and increasing falsity that society mimics as the country becomes one of the world’s fastest-growing digital societies.


by Park Soo-mee

“Play with Landscape,” an exhibit by Kang Hong-goo runs at Rodin Gallery through August 6.
For more information call (02) 2259-7781.

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