Artpace exhibition 'Our Step, Our Hope' showcases art from San Antonio's South Korean sister city

The exhibition features works from 10 of Gwangju's leading artists.

click to enlarge Youngsung Hwang, Family Story. - Courtesy Photo / Artpace San Antonio
Courtesy Photo / Artpace San Antonio
Youngsung Hwang, Family Story.

San Antonio and the South Korean municipality of Gwangju have been Sister Cities since 1982, a relationship established in part to foster a relationship in the creative arts.

The Artpace San Antonio exhibition "Our Step, Our Hope," which opened Sept. 8 and runs through Jan. 1, celebrates that relationship by introducing 10 of Gwangju's leading artists to local viewers.

The nonprofit art space's fall show marries both traditional and contemporary works to reveal the beauty, history and cultural landscape of Gwangju and its surrounding Jeolla-do Province. It also adds to the list of collaborative efforts and cultural exchanges between San Antonio and the South Korean city.

Established shortly after World War ll by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Sister Cities International initiative was meant to develop globe-spanning economic and cultural exchanges. The program also encourages understanding, tolerance and familiarity with foreign cultures.

San Antonio currently has 11 established Sister City relationships around the globe.

Cutting-edge creativity

The work featured in "Our Step, Our Hope" is an eclectic mix of video and installation works that provides a glimpse of Gwangju through the cutting-edge creativity of some of its premiere artists.

The work of Eunsol Cho considers human interaction both literally and figuratively. In the video installation Two to Tango, Cho contemplates nonverbal communication and the building of relationships through touch. The clip depicts a pair of hands gently massaging, touching and appearing to examine each other. A second video installation on the gallery floor shows a series of hands as they reach out for contact.

Youngsung Hwang, one of South Korea's most prominent modernist painters, has focused on family themes in a career spanning more than half a century. In the Artpace exhibit, the artist borrows from traditional Korean culture and motifs to remember relatives lost during the Korean War. His Family Story, a visually striking oil on canvas, stands at the center of the gallery as a symbol for human connectedness.

Light and sound

Yonghyun Lim's mixed-media work Tik Tok uses 3D mapping technology to project a kaleidoscope of vivid colors and images of Diet Coke bottles. Like Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup prints, Lim's work is a commentary on consumer culture. And much like Warhol himself, who once prophesied that, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes,'' Lim considers the impact of social media on contemporary culture.

Seonhooi Cheng combines traditional Korean paper and LED lighting with the piece In the Morning of the Temple in the Mountain. Cheng's mixed-media creation contemplates the constant changing of light throughout the day on a mountainous landscape, an effect that mimics the fleeting moods created by sunrise and sunset.

Leenam Lee appropriates paintings by Korean impressionist artists Jiho Oh and Uijae Baek-ryun Huh and projects new forms of lighting and emotion onto the works. The result creates an almost meditative space for the viewer via subtle changes of light and the soothing sounds of falling rain and water.

Incomplete landscapes

With more than a thousand years of history, the city of Gwangju offers a culture straddling tradition and modernity, as evidenced by the works in "Our Step, Our Hope." The region's rich, natural terrain, surrounded by the Southwestern Sea and Honam Plains, continues to inspire artists.

Further, the area is considered a significant site for the struggle for democracy in Asia, a reputation embodied in Koreans' references to the "Gwangju Spirit." That fearless and innovative streak also is evident in many of the works on display at Artpace.

In Yellow Smoke, Namjin Lim borrows from traditional Buddhist folk painting of the Goryeo Dynasty to capture the everyday lives of contemporary people. He depicts a raging sea as a metaphor for struggle and the hardships he is determined to overcome.

The work of Seol Park occupies one corner of the gallery. In the mixed-media piece It's About an Incomplete Landscape, Park employs a collage technique that merges with traditional ink-and-water nature painting.

Park's creation extends beyond the painting into a three-dimensional space that includes folded, mountain-like sculptural materials that reach from floor to ceiling. Inspired by the South Korean landscape, Park creates a new form of Korean painting that leaves open a door for possibilities.

"Our Step, Our Hope," Free, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday through Jan. 1,. Artpace, 445 N. Main Ave., (210) 212-4900, artpace.org.

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