New York based Korean Artist, Jong Oh, presented an exhibition of site-specific installations at the Contemporary Art Galleries in the Art building on the University of Connecticut campus Tuesday night. Before the exhibition he talked to students and faculty in the Art Department about his work.
Oh has been an artist in residence on the Storrs campus since March 21. Upon putting together his exhibition, he has gotten to work with and talk to students in the art program.
“It was inspiring to be around the energy of the students,” he said.
Oh was born in Mauritania, Africa and spent much of his youth living in Spain. He received a BFA in Sculpture from Hongik University in Seoul, Korea and an MFA from the School of Visual Art in New York City.
Moving around from place to place, Oh never felt a sense of permanence. Because of this, in the back of his mind, no matter where he goes he thinks about how things will change and not be permanent. This is why his work focuses on non-permanence and the state of being delicate.
Oh is rather nomadic in nature. He said since he has traveled so much, he does not like working in the same area for too long.
“I only have one backpack and one suitcase that I always take with me. I don’t even have an apartment,” he said.
For the last three years Oh has rented studios for a short amount of time until he has a show and then he’ll pick up his bags and go wherever that may be.
When Oh first began school in NYC, he started a collection of objects he would find in the street. He began that collection because he was interested in all the artifacts that he would come across and because he also partially felt bad that people would abandon such objects. This collection would then turn into pieces of art he displayed in his studio, always minimalistic.
By his second year of graduate school, he had gotten a new studio to work in. In this studio he noticed lots of lines within the floor and cracks in the wall that made him want to do installations.
This approach has since become the primary method of his work. He uses empty space to alter viewer’s perceptions of their surroundings though the use of shadows and light.
Oh will use the natural lines in a space as a starting point. He comes into each space with an open mind and no plans, he will spend time in the area to contemplate what his creation will be.
All his installations show off a sense of balance, structure and geometrics. He also thinks about the pathway and movement of the viewers when he is working on an exhibit.
Oh has been known to compare his work to poetry. In a question and answer one audience member asked Oh to elaborate on that idea.
“It’s similar to poetry because [they both] use simple language,” said Oh. “Poetry is a composition of simple words. Each piece I make is like a small poem, and the space is an empty book.”
He approached the space at UConn by spending two and a half days just hanging out in it, to “listen to the space” to see what he can do. Rather than Oh going into the space and create whatever he wants, he said the space has to allow him to make a creation.
“It’s interesting how important it is to him that he see a space in person [before designing an exhibit,” said Introduction to Digital Media professor Siobhan Landry.
Landry also said how it’s difficult to see via the Internet where the edges or glass are within the installation to create a moment of joy or surprise. The need to see the space in person is why Director of Contemporary Art Galleries Barry Rosenberg chose Oh for the exhibition.
The exhibition will be open until May 6.