For nearly a quarter of a century now, the Korean American Artist’s Association of Washington (KAAW) has functioned as a resource for artistic growth for local artists of Korean descent. Via annual exhibitions, the association also provides those artists a means to put their work before the viewing public.
The Gallery at Tacoma Community College currently hosts this year’s KAAW exhibition. The exhibition features work by some 23 artists. The work is mostly by local Korean Americans but work by a number or Korean artists from Gunsan, Tacoma’s Korean sister city, is also included. KAAW is open to artists of a variety of skill levels. Some are professionals while others work mainly for the pleasure and personal growth afforded by the practice of art.
Much of the work in the show is decorative and sentimental. Much square footage of wall space is taken up with landscapes and floral paintings. Visitors to the gallery are greeted by Kyong Oh’s “Autumn,” an oil painting in which the focus is upon the autumnal tones of understory forest growth from whence the trunks of trees rise like burly pillars. Hae Yeon Lee’s “Forest Murmurs of Hope” comes across as a black velvet, day-glow scene of trees and waterfalls. Patsy Surh O’Connell’s lively and livid red flower blossoms linger long in the mind’s eye.
Elsewhere one encounters Jade Choes’s delicate watercolors of butterflies and flowers. She also has some of her cards for sale in the gallery gift shop. Mison Kim’s thick, impasto canvases of winterscapes and flowers are loose, lucid and executed with confidence. Hyosoon Jung pushes sentimentality to the limit in “My Home,” a scene of a road passing by a stone wall. With just a few dashes of bright color here and there, this picture could pass for a Thomas Kinkade.
Traipsing through the gallery spaces, one meets with subtlety and charm in works like Young Rae Kwon’s “House Back Home in Early Winter.” This is a beguiling little watercolor of a quiet village done in mellow yellows and muted browns. Myong Ae Lee’s watercolor vignettes of human moments possess the quality of pages from the sketchbook of an artist who sits to the side and takes delight in watching people interact. Sang H. Noh’s “Asleep” is an ink painting with a watercolor effect. It is a female nude done with subtlety of tone in rendering light and shadow. Mi Ho Chung’s “Red Wheel” is a jaunty rooster sporting a pair of red wheels so that it seems like a whirligig from a midwestern farm.
Toward the back of the gallery things turn colorful and brilliant, and this is where the stars of the show are to be found. Jae W. Kim’s “Empty Cans,” for example, is an almost cartoon-like depiction of puffy aluminum cans. Some are bent and some are crumpled. Their tops are popped. Each is a colorful delight. The work seems an homage to Andy Warhol’s soup cans as well as to expressionism.
Seattle based Joseph Park is a big time artist who has had one-man shows at the Frye Museum, the Portland Art Museum and many other venues. Here, however, he is a major artist playing a minor role. His two paintings, “The Tigress” and “Space Jam,” are eye-catching for their color, energy and the thick, glossy coating of epoxy resin that makes them shine like a freshly waxed linoleum floor. “Tigress” appears to be a “found” painting (perhaps a thrift shop find) to which Park added his own crystalline flourish before he encased it in its outer coating. “Space Jam” is abstract, an example of Park’s invented “Prismism” treatment in which organic blobs are encased in crystal formations. The technique blends the flavor of cubism with Italian futurism to form a spellbinding concoction.
Holding their own in this colorful wing of the gallery are a pair of watercolors by Hee Wan Lee called “Landscape 1” and “Landscape 2.” They look like something that could have been made in France during the heyday of the fauves. They are quickly and deftly executed scenes of ships in a busy port like our own Commencement Bay. They are masterpieces done with a brilliant economy of brushwork.
The show stealer is fabric artist Bella Yong Ok Kim’s “Joy.” This is a great, upward swoop composed of many circles of found fabric all stitched together into a long train. The hues are brightly colored at the lower parts and become increasingly drained of color until the uppermost circles are white and translucent. The emotion of joy rises to a spiritual crescendo.
This article does not exhaust the visual wealth to be taken home by a visit to this show. Several of the artists have contributed smaller, gem-like cards to the gallery’s gift shop. There are a few fine examples of Korean furnishings and much more to make the show a garden of visual delights.
The show runs through Aug. 15. The formal artist’s reception takes place July 18 at 4 p.m. and is free and open to the public. For further information call (253) 460-4306 or visit http://www.tacomacc.edu/campuslife/thegallery.