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Kim Jong-Il and Lee Myung-Bak make out at Collette Blanchard Gallery
January 10, 2010, 8:00 am
Filed under: Go | Tags: , , , , ,

I was walking down Clinton Street the other day and stopped in my tracks outside a gallery where a huge bronze Buddha head lay in the middle of a pile of sand and seashells. Behind the Buddha head is a neon sign in hangul, Korean writing, and while I can read the words, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Maybe my Korean needs some brushing up, or maybe it’s gibberish.

The gallery is Collette Blanchard, the exhibition is “Kingdom Come,” and the artist is SunTek Chung.

Upon closer examination, I find that the Buddha from “The Road is Shorter Than You Think, 2009” is not actually in peaceful slumber on the beach as I had thought at first glance, but has actually been decapitated, veins and muscles and sinew exposed. I could almost see the veins throbbing, even though they were rigid, cast in bronze. My emotions changed dramatically as I walked around the sculpture: from the front of the gallery, I felt serene; from the sides, I was appalled but intrigued.

On the wall behind the Buddha head is a neon light installation called “Even a Piece of Paper is Lighter When Carried By Two, 2009.” I seriously stood and stared at this sign, reading and re-reading it over and over for about ten minutes. Finally, I asked the woman working at the gallery about the work. The lights spell out the title of the work from the Korean language translated into Latin phoneticized into English and then phoneticized into Korean. It’s supposed to illustrate how things can get lost in translation. Mission accomplished.

The staged photographs on the side walls were of little interest to me, and thus I wandered into the back room, intrigued by a bronze sculpture of two busts atop a podium leaning in towards one another for what seemed to be a very passionate kiss.

Turns out that North Korean President Kim Jong-Il is trying to slip South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak a little tongue. “Me and You, You and Me, 2009” is SunTek Chung’s way of expressing his hope that one day, North and South Korea will kiss and make up.

I enjoyed the exhibition, as I found it moving, thought-provoking, and wrought with meaning (especially so for Koreans, I think).

Go: Collette Blanchard Gallery, 26 Clinton St. between Houston and Stanton. Through January 20, 2010.

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