Fragile-Flow Blue, Digital Print, 82.7”x47” in., 2010, Courtesy Sundaram Tagore
Fragile is the second solo exhibition of Korean artist Kim Joon (b. 1966) at Sundaram Tagore New York. The show is a variation on the emerging photographer’s fascination with tattoos and taboos. His use of three-dimensional computer graphics enables Joon to ‘virtually’ mould the physiology of his subjects in an anti-pygmalian fashion. The artist, then, imprints (tattoos) his imperfect bodies and figur(in)es with iconic imagery of contemporary luxury-brands or historic mass-produced Chinoiserie patterns that signify their mediated aesthetics. The Seoul-born Joon has explained his interest in tattoos “as a metaphor for hidden desire or a kind of compulsion engraved into human consciousness. Tattoos can reflect individual and collective reality or displaced desire.”
Joon’s recent adaptation of blue and white Chinese porcelain ware design is at once an ode to, and a criticism of, the stunning eminence of Asia as a rising financial, political and cultural power. Dating back to as early as the 9th century, the techniques of hand-painted pottery had fully evolved toward, and were cultivated for, mass-production, by the 14th century. At the height of the Industrial Age, this ‘fragile’ creation had manifested itself into the most imitable of Orientalia from Iznik to Delft and Staffordshire. Joon’s deceptively decorative images thus betray just how little things have changed: the continuous and growingly dynamic Seidenstraße (Silk Road) trade; import of raw material from neighboring countries (cobalt from Persia/Iran); advancement of Chinese technologies; and, the expanding import/export market for luxury as well as mass-produced goods.
In many ways, the Korean artist’s latest production of digitally mastered, Chinoiserie-inspired hollowed-figur(in)e images is a highly aestheticized and sensualized criticique of 21st century dilemmas concerning private and communal desires and identities. Likewise, in Sundaram Tagore, Joon has found an able arbiter of the ever-expanding Seidenstraße from Hong Kong to Los Angeles via New York City.