Art Projects International

Exhibition EssayJanuary 5, 2003

Finding the Center in a Dislocated World: The Art of Myong Hi Kim

Essay by art critic Eleanor Heartney, excerpt from the exhibition catalogue Myong Hi Kim: Dynamics of Dislocation, 2003.

Like many artists today, Myong Hi Kim is experienced in the ways of the modern nomad. She moves between homes in New York and Korea, she pursues her art in remote corners of the world, most recently traveling the length of the Trans-Siberian railroad, and she exhibits her work internationally. Such mobility no doubt contributes to her interest in earlier migrations, both voluntary and forced, which are an essential part of her Korean heritage.

Kim deals as well with dislocations caused by time. Since moving in 1990 to an abandoned schoolhouse in the remote northern countryside of South Korea, she has become increasingly haunted by the children who once studied there. This interest was heightened by her discovery of the chalkboards once used for lessons. These have become the canvases for many of her recent works. In these paintings, shapes and forms emerge from the mysterious blackness of the chalk boards like ghosts temporarily freed from the constraints of history. Many feature children much like those who would have gathered in her schoolhouse home many decades ago. Often there are chalk markings in the background of these paintings. Half erased Korean inscriptions or mathematical notations conjure daily lessons created to be erased, like the memory of these children, so that others can replace them.

Animating all Kim’s work is the effort to work out ways to exist in a world which seems to have lost its traditional sense of center. She proposes a variety of strategies. One is to locate the center within oneself.

– Eleanor Heartney

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