Art review: Koh Byoung Ok @ Solway Jones Gallery

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In 1962, Andy Warhol used a stamp technique to reproduce 210 bottles of Coca-Cola on canvas as they might appear in a big supermarket cooler, 30 bottles across and seven rows high. Some were pictured full, others empty and still others only partially filled.

In ‘Naked Coke,’ sculptor Koh Byoung Ok ups the numerical ante while adding a considerable degree of mystery. Eleven rows high, his aluminum shelves feature 264 unprinted, silver cans, polished to a high reflection, in regimented rows of 24. Their tops have not been popped. Whether the mute, light-reflective array of stripped commercial goods is full or empty is a question inducing an unexpected state of meditative stillness and tranquility.

Nearby in his show of eight sculptures at SolwayJones (his first with the gallery), an illuminated light bulb suspended from a cord dangles into water that puddles in the seat of a modern, mass-produced plastic chair. Potentially shocking, in a literal sense, the work twists Warhol’s 1960s silkscreen paintings of electric chairs into conceptual and perceptual knots.

Sculptural koans, where intuition transcends logic, Koh’s work draws its forms from Pop, Minimalism and Conceptual art, especially the work of Warhol, Donald Judd and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (perhaps significantly, all now deceased). Two of the most compelling works stop time -- again literally, simply by affixing thread and yarn to the second-hand of battery-powered clock mechanisms affixed to the wall.
The tension and weight of the slender material is enough to cause the second-hand to jerk and quiver, rendered unable to move forward through the curve of space. The most compelling works in the show, Koh’s simple clocks warp expectation.


--Christopher Knight

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SolwayJones Gallery, 990 N. Hill St., Chinatown, (213) 223-0224, through June 26. Closed Mon. and Tues.