Do Ho Suh, Fallen Star 1/5, 2008-09, ABS, basswood, beech, ceramic, enamel paint, glass, honeycomb board, lacquer paint, LED lights, pinewood, plywood, resin, spruce, styrene, polycarbonate sheets, and PVC sheets, Approximately 131 x 145 x 300", Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, © Do Ho Suh.

12 Contemporary
Artists Showing
the Vitality of Korean Art

Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea features a generation of artists who have emerged since the mid-1980s — some well-known and others on the brink of such recognition — all of whom work on the cutting-edge of international art trends and within a distinctly Korean context: Bahc Yiso, Choi Jeong-Hwa, Gimhongsok, Jeon Joonho, Kim Beom, Kimsooja, Koo Jeong-A, Minouk Lim, Jooyeon Park, Do Ho Suh, Haegue Yang and the collaborative, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries. Your Bright Future (a deliberately ambiguous title taken from a sculpture by Bahc Yiso) will represent each artist through a large-scale installation or substantial body of work, including site-specific installations, video art, computer animation, and sculpture.

“Korea has a vibrant and sophisticated contemporary art scene that is still relatively unknown in the United States,” said Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “LACMA is thrilled to bring this insightful exhibition to Los Angeles — the largest Korean community outside of Korea — particularly as we reopen the museum’s Korean art galleries, providing our visitors both traditional and contemporary offerings of Korean art.”

Peter C. Marzio, director of the MFAH, commented, “The impetus for this landmark exhibition dates back to my revelatory first trip to Seoul in 2004. Four years and countless studio visits later, curators Christine Starkman and Lynn Zelevansky have opened an entirely new perspective on the extraordinary art being made by a generation of Korean artists. We are enormously pleased to have partnered with LACMA on this initiative.”

The contemporary art scene in Korea has remained relatively unexplored in the West despite its vibrancy during the last two decades. Throughout the 1980s, Korean artists became increasingly exposed to international art trends. With the proliferation of world-wide exhibitions and biennials in the 1990s, they increasingly began to travel, live, and exhibit abroad. While learning to communicate deftly in an international visual language, Korean artists also respond to their own personal experiences and their work reflects the culture out of which they emerged. The artists in Your Bright Future came of age amid political turmoil and increased freedoms in their small but increasingly prosperous country. Their experience has produced work that focuses, often humorously, on the ephemeral nature of life, time, and identity, as well as on the limitations of communication across languages, cultures, and generations. Each has made presence, absence, and change the center of their work.

Works by the only deceased artist, Bach Yiso, will be on view in the exhibition. Bahc's work Your Bright Future (2002/2009) is a sculpture in which ten bright lights augmented by reflectors and connected by a flimsy wooden structure face upward, shining on a large white wall. The lights are anthropomorphic, recalling a crowd basking in the glory of a charismatic leader. It could be a wholesome scenario or the group could be in thrall to an autocratic leader. Bahc’s billboard We Are Happy (2004) is presented here as a banner with these words printed in white Korean script against an orange background. In the simplest and most direct way, We Are Happy (2004) questions what happiness is, and who is experiencing it. For LACMA's exhibition, We Are Happy will hang at the museum's Wilshire Boulevard entrance.

Other outdoor works include three site-specific installations by the artist renowned as the father of Korean pop art, Choi Jeong-Hwa. In Welcome, swaths of brightly covered fabric are stretched from roof to balustrade on the south and west facades of LACMA's Ahmanson Building. Choi's other two works are both titled HappyHappy and made of commercial plastic containers. In the BP Grand Entrance, thousands of these colorful items, procured from local 99¢ stores, are strung together, reaching from the ceiling almost to the floor. Choi’s other work is an interactive, educational project. Visitors are invited to make their own sculptures out of plastic containers and hang them on five chain-link fences situated on LACMA’s campus.

Contemporary Korean Artists >

Ansel Krut, Giants of Modernism #2 (Carrot Head), 2009, oil on canvas, 90 × 60 cm, detail.

Ansel Krut, Caricaturist Drawings with Psychedelicism
There is a measured and psychedelic cast of protagonists in Krut’s paintings that revel in absurd creativity. This quality of absurdity in Krut’s images is vital, yet needn’t be overplayed, as it belies the subtlety and sophistication of his characterisation, and his sincere exercise of technique.

Ansel Krut >>

Gustav Metzger, Acid Action Painting, 2006, detail.

A Practice Rich in the Semiotics of Left Wing Politics
Gustav Metzger’s practice represents a life-long involvement in left-wing politics, ecology, and the creative and destructive powers of twentieth and twenty-first century industrialized societies. This is the first time such an extensive overview of Metzger’s work has been presented in the UK.

Gustav Metzger >>

Felice Casorati, La donna e l'armatura, 1921, detail.

Contrast and Comparison, What Seems New
FormContent, a group of young curators formed by Francesco Pedraglio, Caterina Riva e Pieternel Vermoortel, plans its upcoming exhibition and applies its distinctive and independent curatorial practice to a more institutional space than the one they usually move in.

What Seems New >>

La Fenice, 1644, Biblioteca Nazionale di Torino, detail.

Amusements, Court of Savoy, 16th and 18th Centuries
As of the second half of the 16th Century, the House of Savoy began to reform life at Court, drawing inspiration from the greater European dynasties, and in particular from the Royal Houses of Spain and France. Trends and amusements were imported, artists and men of letters were invited.

Baroque Feasts >>

The Role of American Stories in American Art History
From the decade before the Revolution to the eve of World War I, many of America's most acclaimed painters captured in their finest works the temperament of their respective eras. They recorded and defined the emerging character of Americans as individuals, citizens, and members of ever-widening communities. American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915 brings together for the first time more than 100 of these iconic pictures that tell compelling stories of life's tasks and pleasures. The first overview of the subject in more than 35 years, the exhibition includes loans from leading museums and private lenders—and many paintings from the Metropolitan's own distinguished collection. American Stories features masterpieces by John Singleton Copley, Charles Willson Peale, William Sidney Mount, George Caleb Bingham, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, John Sloan, and George Bellows, and notable works by some of their key colleagues.

The exhibition examines stories based on familiar experience and the means by which painters told their stories through their choices of settings, players, action, and various narrative devices. The artists' responses to foreign prototypes, travel and training, changing exhibition venues, and audience expectations are examined, as are their evolving styles and standards of storytelling in relation to the themes of childhood, marriage, the family, and the community; production and reinforcement of citizenship; attitudes towards race; the frontier as reality and myth; and process and meaning of art making.

The exhibition is arranged in four chronological sections. The first — Inventing American Stories, 1765–1830— begins with artists who told stories through portraits. Serving their sitters' self-conscious interest in how they appeared in the eyes of others, American portraitists often emulated British compositions. Although these artists focused on individuals and particular locales and relationships, the cleverest of them responded to broader narrative agendas and to the natural impulse to tell stories. In his portrait of his colleague Paul Revere (1768, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), John Singleton Copley embedded subtle narrative into a traditional single-figure format, with the silversmith's gestures and gaze conveying volumes about the time in which he lived. As their patrons learned to read portraits for more than likeness and to appreciate artistic license, portraitists began to gratify their sitters by telling subtle personal stories in increasingly elaborate compositions. In his ingenious double-likeness of Benjamin and Eleanor Ridgely Laming (1788, National Gallery of Art, Washington), for instance, Charles Willson Peale implied the sexual bond that defined the Lamings' marriage. Later in this period, some painters told grand stories in pictures produced for public exhibition, rather than purely for private enjoyment. In Gallery of the Louvre (1831–33, Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago), Samuel F. B. Morse proposed that his compatriots must achieve cultural independence from Europe even while they learned from the Old World's greatest artistic achievements.

In the second section of the exhibition — Stories for the Public, 1830–1860— American artists responded to an expanding and increasingly diverse audience for public exhibitions; new mechanisms for selling and reproducing art; and middle-class patrons' growing cultural literacy and wealth. They looked to precedents in European genre painting to help them tell their stories.

American Stories >

Henry Bacon (American, 1839-1912), First Sight of Land, 1877, Oil on canvas; 28-3/4 x 19-7/8", In the collection of Art and Elaine Baur.