The Whanki Museum and The Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Foundation are pleased to present PO KIM: Then and Now, a large-scale retrospective exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Po Kim (born Kim Bo-Hyun, 1917-2014). Presented as a collaborative intercontinental partnership between The Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Foundation (NYC) and the Whanki Museum (Seoul), the exhibition encompasses the seven-decade career of Po Kim, a first-generation Korean-American abstract painter who created a distinctive corpus of art through his uniquely expressive combination of line and color.
PO KIM: Then and Now follows the artist’s unique creative journey across continents and cultures, beginning with his return to Korea in 1946 from his studies in Japan and continuing through his immigration to the U.S. in 1955 until his death in New York in 2014. His artistic journey is manifested in his unique stylistic fusion of cultures, which resulted in three distinct modes, from gestural abstraction, to realist still-lifes, to symbolist figuration. The exhibition effectively highlights Po Kim’s past and present cultural significance — as a pioneering Korean Modern artist to first come to New York in the 1950s and as a visionary and source of inspiration for subsequent generations of Korean and international artists.
This exhibition is Po Kim’s first retrospective in Seoul since his death in 2014, and is the realization of a joint collaboration between the Po Kim Foundation and the Whanki Museum, initially inspired by their mutually supportive relationship during the lifetimes of Po Kim and Whanki Kim. Incorporating the Whanki Museum’s three floors of gallery space, the exhibition showcases 85 works of art, on loan from international museums and collections, representing all periods of Po Kim’s stylistically-diverse oeuvre, presented in seven gallery themes introducing Kim’s oil painting, drawing, collage, and studio artefacts.
Co-organized and co-curated by The Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Foundation (NYC) and the Whanki Museum (Seoul), PO KIM: Then and Now initiates the Whanki Museum’s ongoing research project exploring the life and art world of Korean modern and contemporary artists who worked and broadened their perspectives abroad during the same period as Whanki Kim.
- PO KIM: Then and Now
A Centennial Celebration of the Artist’s Birth
- May 12, 2017 – July 30, 2017
- Whanki Museum
63 Jahamun-ro 40-gil
Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
- Co-organized by the Whanki Museum (Seoul, Korea) and The Sylvia Wald & Po Kim Foundation (NYC)
EXHIBITION INSTALLATION VIEWS
SECTION 1: JOURNEY OF PO KIM
SECTION 2: TRACES
New York at the time was the height of abstract expressionism.
Longing for freedom from the past oppressed and threatened life, I believed it was the best painting style suited to my emotion, at the time [. . .]
Opposing convention and tradition. Expression of explosive emotion. Wasn’t this what I had been pursuing?— Po Kim
SECTION 3: ABSTRACTION
SECTION 4: OBJECT AND COLLAGE
I had been painting abstract for about 20 years. Then one day, it seemed to me too notional. I no longer had the desire to paint in the name way, as if I had reached the dead end.— Po Kim
So being like a student, I began to observe objects and draw realistically.
SECTION 5: ALLEGORY
I never painted with a specific idea in mind. Long ago, my life was not very peaceful. So I wanted to forget the pain, and only paint fantasies, things of beauty, things that were devoid of suffering [. . .] so I guess you could say that by creating pictures of a fantasy world, I was escaping reality. Or something like that.— Po Kim
SECTION 6: BIRDS IN PARADISE
I never had a peaceful mind when I was in Korea. I know I had a morbid fear — a fear for my life because I’d almost died several times. I had literally escaped to America, so I had to find a way to stay.
I was strangely attracted to birds. So I bought a pair of birds to cheer myself up. And that’s how I lived for a while, making a dollar or more an hour, scraping by.— Po Kim
SECTION 7: UTOPIA
When I make small pieces, I feel like I’m just using my head and fingertips, whereas with large works, my entire being is engaged [. . .] With the bigger pieces, I have to move my whole body back and forth, so I feel greater satisfaction. I don’t think I can express as much as I want to in small sizes.
Small-scale and large-scale works — there is a world of difference. Small works are like poetry, while large works are like prose, and I believe that all works of art should contain both poetry and prose, otherwise it is not successful art.— Po Kim