Seriously playful: Kiseok Kim’s “Plastics” at Olivia Park Gallery

Seriously Playful: Kiseok Kim’s “Plastics” at Olivia Park Gallery

Kiseok Kim paints “like still life,” which at our moment might capture a smartphone screen littered with bright emojis, a grid of app icons, or the colorful signage of a subway car. Kim’s “Plastics” paintings begin in real life, inspired by the New Yorker’s experience of everyday colors, patterns and surfaces. “Once I saw a woman with blue hair when I walked on the street,” Kim states in an interview with Maake Magazine, “The color and the shape were very impressive so I painted her in my studio.”

Simultaneously still life and portrait, Kim’s “Plastics” feature doll-like faces pressed close to the picture plane, floating above flattened and precisely patterned grounds. Each face is rendered as smoothly as a digital image, like an enlarged, uncanny emoji. For all their visual clarity and likeness to a pictorial language intended to clarify or intensify an emotional state, Kim’s “Plastics” perform an ambiguity more than an expressionism. Not quite blank, the expressions of these emoji-like portraits read close to ambivalence, or boredom.

Intrinsic to the artist’s practice, a tension between synthetic and organic is contemplated and compounded in his synthesis of artifice and experience. Kim uses digital tools, namely Photoshop, as a means of mediating his vision. A process between seeing and painting, Photoshop provides a way to preview the final artwork, allowing for the arrangement and permutation of colors and patterns before they have met canvas. Playful yet serious, “Plastics” form a body – rather, a surface – of work ripe with commentary on contemporary forms of communication. Kiseok Kim’s paintings remind us that in surface there can be found profound depth.

“Plastics” is on view at Olivia Park Gallery until Monday, March 7.

Kiseok Kim was born and raised in Korea. He received his B.F.A. in painting from Dong-A University in Busan, Korea in 1999 and M.F.A. in Painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 2008. He moved to New York City in 2006, currently lives and works in New York. He has participated in solo and group exhibitions in and around New York City.


By Laura Hillegas


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