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Muckenthaler draws Korean American artists close with ‘Embrace’ exhibition

Sculptures by artists Marsha Judd, at left and center, and Young Shin Kim on display during the "Embrace" exhibition.
Sculptures by artists Marsha Judd, at left and center, and Young Shin Kim on display during “Embrace,” an exhibition featuring 11 Korean artists and 15 other invited artists at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

In a collaborative exhibition titled “Embrace,” Fullerton’s Muckenthaler Cultural Center and the Korean-American Women’s Artist Alliance have drawn together a close circle of Korean American artists.

“I really got to know every one of them very well because this show was planned for a year,” said the show’s curator, Sunook Park, “To me, they are the mothers of the Korean American community and being a Korean American, if I talk to them, I get what is going on in the community. They kind of own it.”

Park said many of the artists, who range in age from 40 to 70, were educated in Korea and the U.S.

“They are lifetime artists,” Park said.

The show, which opened on May 5 and will run until July 3, features no specific medium or genre, resulting in varied work from photography and textiles to ceramics and paintings.

“What I like about this show is it has a lot of texture to it,” said Muckenthaler’s chief curator, Lisa Berman. “It also has a lot of wow factor.”

A close look at Koojah Kim's piece titled "Music of the Spheres" reveals its texture.
A close-up look at Koojah Kim’s mixed media piece, “Music of the Spheres,” reveals its texture.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Two panels from artist Michelle Oh dominate one wall, a detailed abstract orange piece titled “Agape Trace #05,” next to its gray counterpart, “Agape Trace #06.” Another corner features mixed media pieces from Stevie Love that incorporate faux fur and acrylic paints.

In addition to spotlighting female artists of the Korean American community, the show also places an emphasis on inclusivity.

While a show focused on a very specific group like Korean American women is important, Park said engaging with other artists is also critical. Fifteen invited Los Angeles-based artists are also featured in the show.

“We’ve been isolated for so long and now we are together, and artists have a kind of responsibility,” Park said. “Art… is a visual communication. I think having this show together with community artists is really engaging in conversation with each other.”

Park said it can be challenging to have a show with so many different focuses, but his experience and intention are apparent in this installation.

He asked each artist to submit two pieces of work, no larger than 30 inches in width.

Paintings by Tamara Gold titled "Embrace Uncertainty #1," left, and "Embrace Uncertainty #2."
Two acrylic on canvas paintings by Tamara Gold titled, “Embrace Uncertainty #1,” left, and “Embrace Uncertainty #2,” during an exhibition featuring 11 Korean artists and 15 other invited artists at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“I have hung work here before and it is a really beautiful space,” Park said. “I have a process and it is so much fun to install work here because it is like decorating a house.”

The Muckenthaler is an 18-room mansion built in 1925 by Walter and Adella Muckenthaler. It has served as an education, arts and cultural center since 1965 when descendant Harold Muckenthaler donated the home and the surrounding 8.5 acres to the city of Fullerton. It also serves as a back drop for contemporary art shows like “Embrace.”

“The juxtaposition of having the artwork presented in a home, is it shows people that art work is accessible,” said Berman. “Not only in price point, but also within the context of a home.”

Paintings from "Embrace," an exhibition at The Muckenthaler in Fullerton.
Paintings from “Embrace,” an exhibition featuring 11 Korean artists and 15 invited artists at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Berman also applauds Park’s expert use of the space. A smaller room that was once the home’s library showcases unique works, including Atilio Pernisco’s “Prelude to a Wake.”

“These are a complete departure from the rest of the work that you are seeing in the show, but it is brilliant work,” said Berman, “I like that it is placed in this much smaller, intimate room so you are able to look at it more quietly.”

The main objective of the exhibition is to foster a harmonious coexistence of the diverse cultures working and living in the region.

“I think doing a show like this really encourages other minority communities as well,” said Park.

Berman noted Park’s specific effort to create a community with the show “really is a continuation of our calendar for the rest of the year.”

Diversity and inclusivity can be found in other programming at the Muckenthaler, including the highly anticipated “Intercultural” exhibition created by artist Sheinina Lolita Raj with sound art collaboration by Nelly Furtado that is planned for October.

For more information on “Embrace” and other events at the Muckenthaler, visit themuck.org.

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