Showcasing Korean Artists in New Jersey

Suechung Koh, a curator of Gallery Yonhee, and Sungho Choi, one of the artists who is participating in the exhibition. (Photo via The Korea Daily)

The Korean Community Center in Tenafly, New Jersey, is holding a fundraising art sale exhibition from Feb. 15 to March 31. Almost 40 artists, who are working actively in New York and New Jersey, are participating in this exhibition. Korea Daily interviewed Suechung Koh, a curator and exhibitions director of Gallery Yonhee, and Sungho Choi, one of the artists in the exhibition.

Korea Daily: How is this exhibition to help the KCC proceeding?

Koh: “The exhibition started Feb. 15 and will run until March 30, so online sales will run for about a month and a half. (…) Artists participating include well-known Korean artists who are active in New Jersey and New York, as well as international artists from all over the world. Forty artists are selling their work in the range of hundreds of dollars to $2,000. Half of the profits will be donated to the KCC and half will go to the artists. The types of works on sale vary and include oil paintings, photographs, sculptures, pottery, Oriental paintings, etc.

Choi: “It has already been 15 years since I became associated with the KCC in 2004. I feel grateful doing social welfare activities in good centers from Fort Lee to Closter, Englewood, and Tenafly. So far, I have directed art programs at three different places. Currently, Eun-ju Ryu and Suechung Koh are in charge of art business at the KCC and I’m doing the teaching. It was my pleasure to join the exhibition to help the KCC.”

Korea Daily: Why did so many Korean artists who work in New York participate?

Koh: “One of the reasons, I think, might be my communication skills. I have worked in the Tenri Gallery, a Japanese cultural center gallery in Manhattan, and exhibited works of Korean and non-Korean artists for more than a decade. The Korean artists are outstanding, so I thought that it would be better for them to take a leap if they had support groups. While thinking about these things, I heard that the KCC set up its own exhibit hall, Gallery Yonhee, in New Jersey for Korean artists to expand the world of their artwork. So, it was natural for me to help the KCC. All the Korean and non-Korean artists who have participated in my exhibitions understand my point of view. The more experienced artists took the initiative in these exhibitions, leading many young artists.”

“Jo Myung Gan,” (2018), by Sungho Choi, one of the works in the Gallery Yonhee exhibit. (From the exhibit website)

Choi: “Most of the artists are preoccupied with doing their work in their studio. I personally think that, in the 1990s, artists emerged and spent time interacting with each other in a positive way. I was interested [to see them] have such a good influence on each other, but as time passed, that trend disappeared. I naturally joined this exhibition after I heard that there would be a meaningful event for the KCC which helps to develop a local culture and art community. Most Korean artists have been somewhat distant from the local community or the Korean community, but I expect them to be able to narrow their distance and get closer if these kinds of exhibitions and events continue. This event will be rewarding and an opportunity for Korean artists to meet the community they belong to.”

Korea Daily: How are the Korean artists in New York and New Jersey working?

Koh: “Let me start with something that I feel bad about. For example there are art agencies in China and Taiwan that have and manage lists of local artists, so they can easily hold a high-quality exhibition using the database when they have international art exchanges with other countries. However, it is hard to get a chance to have this kind of exchange exhibition for Korean artists because they are working in a dispersed fashion. It never means that Korean artists are low-level. Each Korean artist has great artistic talent, but the basic infrastructure has not been built for them. I wish someone would support these talented artists and I expect the KCC to play such a role.”

Choi: “I came to the U.S. to study in 1981. I have lived here for nearly 40 years and there weren’t many Korean artists in the early days. Since then, there have been many young Korean artists, especially successful ones. The art world has become more diverse and deeper. Some artists have a strong personality and pursue their own work without commercial purpose, and others are dealing with social issues. Under these circumstances, it is a great pleasure for the KCC to give artists an opportunity to display [their work].”

(…)

Korea Daily: As an expert in the field of culture and art, what messages do you want to give the Korean community?

Koh: “I hope that many people will not find art difficult, but [rather] enjoy it by asking anything if they don’t understand. I hope that the KCC will play that role. We will continue to hold museum-class exhibits. We will make it possible to see high-quality displays around our neighborhood without going to Manhattan. When the Korean community’s culture and art level is higher, not only our community but also other communities will come and join us.”

Choi: “Recently, there were nearly 100 classes at the KCC. Anyone can learn a field in which they are interested. I hope more Koreans use such good facilities and programs. In particular, there are educational programs for the second-generation Korean-Americans and various cultural events including music concerts and art exhibitions. Hopefully, the KCC will become a community center for the Korean community to be proud of.”

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