Three Works

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.