Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
In the diaristic handwritten paragraph overlaid upon the white, cloudy sky of his Sunday Painting, “6/5/16,” Byron Kim meditates on his use of color and jokes, “Maybe someday I will be considered the idiot savant of the abstract sublime.” The self-deprecating joke reflects an unfortunate truth about some perceptions of Kim’s oeuvre. His penchant for creating minimalist painting series’ that straddle the line between abstraction and representation and play with part-whole relationships can suggest that he has a narrow artistic range. This sense of aesthetic narrowness is compounded by his landmark Synecdoche (1991-2) — a grid of small monochromatic rectangles, each panel of which depicts the skin color of the sitter whose “portrait” Kim has painted — which is so evocative and art historically important that it tends to eclipse the rest of his work in the public imagination.
At James Cohan Gallery, Kim’s Selected Sunday Paintings, 1/7/01 to 2/11/18 complicates any oversimplifications of his career. The exhibition, which contains nearly 100 paintings, is the largest presentation yet of a series that has been ongoing for over 15 years; as such, it allows us to consider an underappreciated but essential strand of Kim’s life work. I say “life work,” rather than “oeuvre” or “output,” because, in aggregate, the series turns out to be a tour de force of accidental autobiography. Every Sunday since 2001, Kim has produced a 14×14-inch acrylic painting that depicts a slice of sky — blues and whites predominate, with occasional washes of gray — and contains a small observational paragraph handwritten on the canvas. Reading through the paragraphs from start to finish provides an unexpectedly poignant bird’s-eye view of Kim’s life — the youth soccer games, the dinner parties, the glum and the optimistic moods, the children going away to college.
What makes the exhibition more than just a series of dreamily rendered analogue status updates is the intersection of Kim’s personal timeline with the timeline of world-historical events. He begins the project with trepidation — “Every Sunday?” he wonders in “7 January 2001” — but finds solace in its routine after the September 11 World Trade Center attacks. As the project continues, Kim’s quotidian equilibrium is periodically disrupted by seismic shifts in the larger world: “War is looming” (“3/16/03”); “Today we have a Black President” (“1/20/09”); Hurricanes Irene roils New York City (“8/28/11”); “Donald Trump is the president elect of the United States” (“11/14/16”).
Even as the Sunday Paintings’ texts register an array of personal and political changes over time, their skies remain relatively constant. Kim skillfully captures the sky’s subtle variations with his brushstrokes and color gradations, but the fact is that an arbitrary square of sky doesn’t change much from day to day; viewed from a distance, the paintings, gauzy and calm, appear interchangeable. This contrast gives the work much of its force. Whether Barack Obama or Donald Trump has been elected President, whether Kim’s daughter, Addee, scores a goal or rides the bench, the sky’s celestial indifference remains the same.
In addition to providing cosmic perspective on life, Kim’s Sunday Paintings, in their incorporation of writing into painting, also provide perspective on the artist’s aesthetic. In themselves and in comparison with one another, his minimalist painting series’ are far from one-note exercises in figurative abstraction. With an economy of aesthetic means, each series conveys surprising depth of thought and range of emotion. In the Sunday Painting, “12/6/15,” Kim has just returned from viewing The Bronx Museum’s Martin Wong retrospective and gushes, “What a great artist. It doesn’t need to be so complicated or sensational to be so good.” The observation applies to Kim’s work as well. Few artists manage to do more with less.
Sunday Paintings, 1/7/01 to 2/11/18 continues at James Cohan (533 West 26th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through February 17.
The University of Virginia researchers wrote that the data “provides compelling evidence that these symbols are associated with hate.”
We are waiting for spectacle and when the quotidian, yet incongruous actions occur I wonder whether there is any real payoff coming.
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
Tanega’s approach to mark-making comes across as stream of consciousness, as if she’s engaged in a conversation with herself.
Starting Monday, readers can borrow one of 50 rare and out-of-print titles, mailed to them completely free of charge, from Saint Heron Library.
EFA Open Studios offers a portal into the creative habitats of over 65 artists working in Manhattan’s longest-running studio program, including Dannielle Tegeder, Wafaa Bilal, Cui Fei, and Anina Major.
This is Yuskavage’s great gift, turning upside down our settled ways of thinking and seeing and, with ease, transforming the vulgar and ridiculous into the sublime.
51 international publishers and galleries showcase their latest editions in prints and artists’ books at this free public fair, which is fully online this year.
While hardly about the pandemic, or any of the other crises so afflicting us, all are invoked in this exhibition, which is also often tender and profoundly soulful.
These glowing, dynamic artworks reproduce something of Bosch’s chaotic energy, but on an immersive, multi-sensory scale.
This week, addressing a transphobic comedy special on Netflix, the story behind KKK hoods, cultural identity fraud, an anti-Semitic take on modern art, and more.