Art / Yeon Jin Kim
:: Three Works ::
My practice is based on traditional techniques put to new uses.
I make animated films shot from miniature sets and scroll drawings, cut-paper and book works, and Jogakbo-inspired plastic quilts.
My work is equally influenced by my early life in South Korea and my last fifteen years in New York City.
Growing up under military dictatorship in South Korea, I was subjected to pervasive governmental indoctrination and misinformation throughout my education. Under the dictatorship, traditional folk art was denounced while western art was celebrated. In my male-dominant college education, any female craft such as sewing, weaving, and textile work was rejected and regarded as “low art.”
My years away from Korea provided an outside vantage point which allowed me a greater understanding and appreciation of Korean aesthetics and traditions. Although I was presented in school with Western aesthetics as a priority, I was always drawn to the beauty of Korean ceramics and textiles.
As a child I was introduced to Jogakbo (Korean traditional quilting) by my aunt who owned a Hanbok (Korean traditional garment) shop. Jogakbo developed in the seventeenth century as a way for lower-class people to wrap gifts for weddings and other celebratory events. Scrap pieces of fabric were stitched together, much like quilts, to create beautiful wrappings signifying good wishes for the recipient. My aunt was particularly talented, and her Jogakbo were lovely and visually sophisticated. Examples were gifted to family members, and my mother passed hers down to me.
The aesthetic of using scraps, unimportant materials, comes from the Confusian philosophy of modest but not shabby, beautiful but not gaudy (儉而不陋 華而不侈). My use of plastic bags is influenced by this philosophy of beauty in every little object in the world.
In updating this traditional Korean art form, I am stitching together pieces of commercial plastic bags and also drug baggies I find on the streets of New York City where I live. As in traditional Jogakbo, the scrap elements have all been used and are sewn together to create compositions influenced by the lived reality of neighborhood folk.
Jogakbo #2 is made as an Homage to my aunt. The patterns and the color were directly derived from her Jogakbo made in 1986.
Jogakbo #3 was made in Korea, using only plastic bags (collected by my mother and myself) from Seoul. Some scraps include geological information, hobbies, and the spending habits of collectors.
Jogakbo #8 was made during the Covid-19 shutdown and was also influenced by my aunt and other earlier Jogakbo makers.
Yeon Jin Kim is a visual artist and filmmaker, born in South Korea and based in New York City.
Her most recent solo exhibition, Konglish, was presented in 2020 at Place Mak in Seoul. Other recent solo shows have been held at the Society for Domestic Museology in New York, Albright College in Reading, PA, and at the Cluster Gallery in Brooklyn, all in 2019.
Her films have recently been screened at the Philadelphia Asian Film Festival, NewFilmmakers New York, Blow-Up Arthouse Film Fest Chicago, and at the Glimmerglass Film Festival in Cooperstown, NY.
Her work was featured in the book 50 Contemporary Women Artists, edited by Heather Zises and John Gosslee and published by Schiffer Publishing in 2018.
She has done numerous residencies and currently teaches at Fairleigh Dickinson University and Westchester Community College.