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CHOI YOUNG WOOK: KARMA
October 2 - November 27, 2020


Helen J Gallery is proud to announce Karma, an exhibition of work by Korean artist Choi Young Wook. This marks the artist’s first solo exhibition on the Pacific coast. Featuring recent pieces from his renowned series of painted moon jars (달항아리; dalhangari) — round ceramic vessels with roots in 15th century Korea — Karma is as hyperrealistic as it is metaphorical. 

Choi’s fifteen year-long devotion to rendering moon jars dates back to his encounter with one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where Choi found comfort in the jar’s elegantly minimal and slightly asymmetric shape. The crossing of the fine cracks on the jar's surface reminded him of the paths that both he and the jar had to cross in order to unite in that moment. The jar suddenly embodied the world of ‘karma,’ where everyone’s path is entangled into one. 

Resembling the shape of gibbous moons, the moon jars depicted in Karma instantly draw the viewer’s attention to their smooth surfaces and meticulously drawn cracks. Despite their photorealistic appearance, Choi’s intention is not to merely depict the jars in a lifelike manner;  rather, each element is intuitively drawn without a reference, prompting Choi to reflect on and untangle the web of encounters in his life. As a result, the jar becomes a metaphorical object in which his philosophy of life resides. Also a means of communication, his moon jars encourage people to think about their own lives while engaging with, what is for the artist, inherently personal. 

Historically, moon jars have been a symbol of abundance, fortune, and conviviality. Just as the jar can carry a handful of goods, Choi’s paintings each possess a multitude of encounters. During  Chuseok, the Korean harvest festival, families and friends from a distance gather under the full moon to share food, drink, and the joy of being together. Choi sees his paintings as functioning similarly to the moon, their simple but illuminating power capable of uniting people despite different physical and temporal environments.

The exhibition’s overlap with Chuseok highlights the relational subtext that Choi’s work holds. As part of the gallery’s vision to cultivate a space for gathering and intercultural exchange in the L.A. art community, Helen J Gallery will hold a series of programs that celebrate Korean traditions and the diversity of Los Angeles in conjunction with the exhibition.




Photography by JW Pictures.