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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 8, 2003

'Hometowns' showcases Korean-American artists

By Victoria Gail-White
Advertiser Art Critic

 •  'Ko-h'yang: Hometowns'

Through June 24

10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday

1-5 p.m. Sunday

The Koa Gallery at Kapi'olani Community College

"Ko-h'yang: Hometowns" is one of many planned exhibitions in celebration of the centennial of Korean immigration in Hawai'i. This one, curated by Kloe Kang and designed by David Behlke, features the work of 13 contemporary Korean-American artists.

Susan Cassell's mixed-media works combine humor with surrealism. She collaged photographic images onto painted surfaces in "Starry Night" and "Window of Nostalgia."

"My Doll Collection" by Ezekiel Chihye Hwang is a series of 12 multiple black-and-white photographs of her male friends from UH, set in metallic sticker shadow-box frames. She uses found objects (e.g., pink chess pieces, artificial flowers, bees, flies, seaweed, marbles and boxes of matches) to give each box personality. The images are refreshing and entertaining.

Kloe Kang's two somber oil-on-canvas paintings of rice bowls are a metaphor for her connection to Korean culture. They feed into Diane Chongmin Kim's "Cho-Gae (Everything Is Coming From and Returning to Nothingness)." Her three-paneled, sepia-and-white-toned mixed-media paintings incorporate paint, rope and grains of rice which spill onto the floor beneath the paintings.

The "Mind Over Matter" series of five abstract works by Grace Kim integrates etching, drawing, collaged elements, and mixed-media painting. In "Mind Over Matter #3," the drawing of an egg cracking open rests in the right-hand corner while abstract elements loom above and alongside it.

"Combing Her Memories," a mixed-media installation by Jeeun Kim, is a row of Korean shoes made from translucent gut and mounted on a wall. Long strands of red embroidery thread are connected to the shoes and cascade to the floor next to an ornately embroidered rose applique.

"Beginnings," "New Arrivals" and "Poetry House" are Jinja Kim's three-dimensional, mixed-media houses with a temporal perspective. Both Korean and American images are layered onto the house surfaces.

"I am very touched by the efforts of the Korean immigrants who came before me," says Jinja Kim.

"They worked very hard to survive and also created a cultural base for future generations."

She says Korean immigrants are fortunate to be able to enjoy the richness of their culture in Hawai'i.

She decided to use the image of a house because it is the place where human sagas begin.

Jinja Kim also will participate in a show at The Contemporary Museum in October.

Many of the images in Min Chong Kim's figurative watercolors illustrate how hard the plantation workers labored.

Geoff Lee's glass work is luminous in the light coming through from the windows; and So Suk Ko's oil-on-canvas "Ko H'yang Icheon II" is a luminous landscape with calligraphy.

The delicate etchings of Jooyi Maya Lee, "Heart" and "Solitude," are a good pairing with Soonjung Kwon's wispy wire human-figure sculpture.

Hwa Ja Park, who came to Hawai'i in 1963, says, "Each work starts with a prayer."

"Untitled," a monotype on paper, glows with the strength of her faith. It is about the resurrection of Christ and is a metaphor for her new life in America.

Her father was a Presbyterian minister, and she credits her belief with helping her adjust to life here. She had a difficult time with the language.

"No matter what state I was in," she says, "I was sustained by my Christian faith. It is the most important thing I can say about being in America."

The artists often are in attendance at the exhibition. For information on artist availability, call 734-9374.