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“Unsentimental Education” on View Through March 9, 2024, at BB&M

“Unsentimental Education” Installation view at BB&M ©BB&M

BB&M presents “Unsentimental Education”, a group exhibition by four young artists, Heecheon Kim, Sikyung Sung, Jeongsu Woo, and Young-jun Tak, through March 9.

“Unsentimental Education” offers a glimpse into the practices of four contemporary Korean artists, all men in their thirties, who have garnered increasing critical attention in recent years for their work in the mediums of painting and moving image. Putting an oblique spin on “sentimental education,” alluding to the 19th-century Flaubert novel which the author called “the moral history of the men of my generation,” this exhibition sheds light on the sensibilities and aesthetic strategies of an emerging generation negotiating the contours of seismic social and cultural shifts, while traversing the increasingly permeable divide between the real and the virtual, figuration and abstraction, lived experience and symbolic sublimation.

Through a variety of media, from video to sculpture, two-dimensional, and installation, Young-jun Tak observes the sociocultural mechanisms that organize human beliefs and belief systems, examining the impact and structure of beliefs that transcend science and technology on society and the collective unconscious. Currently based in Berlin, where he held a solo exhibition at the Julia Stoschek Foundation, a global media art collection, last year, the artist held his first solo exhibition in Korea with “Love Your Clean Feet on Thursday” (Atelier Hermès, Seoul, 2023). Through a series of videos and sculptures, he questioned some of the homophobic attitudes towards queer people, capturing the process by which religious beliefs are solidified into social norms and the new possibilities of hybridity beyond them. Wohin? (2022), his participating artwork, is an extension of this work.

Heecheon Kim, whose recent solo exhibition “Double Poser” (2023) was held at Hayward Gallery, London, is considered one of the most important artists representing a new generation of Korean contemporary art. He is interested in the workings of the world built by technology, and through this, he raises contemporary issues about the unique cognitive sensations experienced by people. This exhibition will screen Lifting Barbells (2015), an early work by the artist. Along with Soulseek/Pegging/Air-twerking and Wall Rally Drill, it is part of a trilogy of videos that tell an autobiographical story set in the urban environment of Seoul. The artist focuses on the chaotic state of himself and his surroundings due to disembodied physicality and virtualized time and space, which naturally led him to utilize pop culture and familiar codes such as face swap apps, games, and anime in his work. This interest continues from his early work Sleigh Ride Chill (2016), which was presented at the Centre Pompidou-Metz in 2023, to his latest work Cutter III, which he presented at “Game Society” (MMCA, Seoul, 2023).

While the video works of the first two artists explore different socio-cultural modalities and the hybridity of technology and humans within a black box, the paintings of the other two participants, Jeongsu Woo and Sikyung Sung, traverse the white cubes of the first and second floors of the gallery, reconfiguring the relationship between the temporality and universality of images. Woo has been deconstructing and re-editing illustrations from various periods and fragments of episodes from myths and epics to create his own screen. With the theme of images outside of their historical context, the artist depicts today’s world in a cynical yet humorous way based on the rough brush movements, delicate printmaking techniques, and characteristic drawings. Reminiscent of his large-scale painting installations at “Jeju Biennale” (2022) and “Young Korean Artists” (MMCA, Gwacheon, Korea, 2021), this new work combines the layers of repetitive hemispherical images characteristic of his previous works with a collage of fabric patterns symbolizing various cultural elements and the figures of characters from the artist’s childhood cartoons. These overturn each other in a giant wave of images, constantly renewing themselves and metaphorically revealing the social landscape we currently face.

Emerging in the art world with his abstract paintings that combine freehand drawing with bold color contrasts, Sikyung Sung is exploring the patterns and trajectories that regularity can create, as well as the pure sculptural language of freehand drawing, which is left entirely to intuition and improvisation, as the title of his new work Othello suggests. In his recent second solo exhibition, “For a long time, All at sudden” (d/p, 2023), he experimented with a variety of painterly forms, from large modular murals to light works on paper. Other recent exhibitions include “White Painting” (Factory 2, 2023), and “DMZ Exhibition: Checkpoint” (Camp Greaves, Paju, Korea, 2023). In his last group exhibition at BB&M, “SUNROOM” (2023), he presented works inspired by the light and shadows of architectural structures, but in this new work, his bolder brushstrokes and drawings stand out.

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