At the quaint gallery space of The Comfort Station, located at the heart of Chicago’s Logan Square, is Sae Jun Kim’s new solo exhibition, The Beginning and End of things. Kim’s sculptural work explores the relationship between nature and civilization, balancing organic form with manufactured structure. Though Kim’s work interprets a very intriguing concept and aesthetic, The Beginning and End of things only seems to mark The Beginning of Things for Kim.
There are three pieces total included in this exhibition (the arrangement was fairly shy, so if I missed something I apologize), somewhat unenthusiastically placed in the gallery: near the entrance, a knee-high white charcoal sculpture, reminiscent of a plateau; a few feet up, another charcoal sculpture, black and slightly smaller, crumbling next to a long mangled metal bar; adjacent, in a small alcoved room, a little forest of black charcoal plateaus, arranged in a grid-like array. In and of themselves, these pieces are delicately beautiful and hint at something much more brute and existential. Of course, a small number of pieces does not inherently indicate the overall power of an exhibition (even one work has the potential to evoke enormous resonance), but the implementation of these pieces as a “body” of work was premature and only hinted at a much larger atmosphere.
If you take a look at the work Kim presents on his website, much of the implementation is simply breathtaking: installations of sprawling organic forms mingling with frames of iron and concrete moldings, swimming through gallery spaces in an air of dynamacy–it’s encapsulating. I can only imagine what it would be like to experience these in person. Especially in comparison to such displays, the execution of The Beginning and End of things was, sadly, a let-down.
In viewing the show, I found myself wanting the gallery to come alive with Kim’s work, to transform into the landscape of his world and completely wrap the viewer into its content. But the pieces were simply set in a corner here and and alcove there in a way that did not highlight the full depth and breadth of what they were reaching for. It was as though the show had just started to be set up. It was missing that full-fledged sense of vigor and passion that I saw in many of the works presented on Kim’s website. They seemed to be waiting to come alive.
This exhibition was definitely lacking a sense of full fruition, but it was worth the glimpse into Kim’s work. Though discreet, there is something powerful dwelling in these pieces, something that has the potential to be a unearthed. Perhaps we can hope for greater things to come in the elaboration of these works. Judging by Kim’s portfolio, he certainly has the potential to create something powerful. The Beginning and End of things, just starts to brush the surface.