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Yeesookyung: Moonlight Crowns
July 29–September 26, 2021

Moonlight Crowns is a new series by Yeesookyung, an artist who adopts crowns as a motif for her artwork. The works are structured in such a way that they expand upward from the crown shape at the very bottom. Upon a small, crown-shaped base, they have a bulging middle section reminiscent of an urn, and a thin, sharp upper section resembling a spire tip. The sculptures range in height from 100 to 225 centimeters, creating a landscape that calls to mind a crowd of 11 people standing in the exhibition space.

Drawing inspiration from a Silla gold crown and Baekje gilt bronze incense burner, Yeesookyung uses the crown—a symbol of power—as a support rather than placing it atop a head, drawing out of it an artwork that is both spiritual object and body. As the viewer approaches the sculptures, their gaze is captured by the detail of the individual pieces: Yeesookyung has covered her sculptures densely in a mixture of craft materials such as iron, brass, glass, pearl, mother-of-pearl, various rough gemstones, and mirror shards. The various symbolic patterns and forms that emerge are beautiful and amusing: angels, praying hands, crosses, dragons, plants, cartoon characters, magic wands, and more. The shapes that are created as the materials come together are like mosaics of fragments, which also seem to melt as if dissolved in flames. It is an approach that entails an intricate crafting process. Combining contemplation with labor, it is a process that the artist herself has referred to as “automatic writing”—a state of hypnotic concentration, as if reciting a written prayer. In the Moonlight Crowns series, the artworks form symmetrical pairings similar to those used often by the artist in her previous work. They resemble the bright and dark sides of the moon, as sculptures with brilliant gemlike colors are paired with ones that are heavy, black, and dull. It is like the contrasts between light and dark, life and death, heaven and hell—but these are not “either-or” contrasts where one or the other is assigned particular weight or precedence. The sculptures have the same composition in terms of form and size, only with different materials and colors; they exist as parallel objects, as if to allude to the existence of ambivalence in every kind of situation in the world, and the coexistence of an “other side.”

For Yeesookyung creating her Moonlight Crowns is as though she was sweeping up the scraps of religion, mythology, and belief dangling from the edges of fragmented objects and melting them with the fire of her fingertips. Recalling the comfort that it gave her to concentrate so deeply on the making of her artwork, she anticipates that it might transcend situations of death, fear, and frustration to convey the sense that “our bodies are sacred temples, our spirits resplendent crowns.”

Curated by: Haeju Kim (Deputy Director, Art Sonje Center)

Exhibition management by: Hyo Gyoung Jeon (Curator, Art Sonje Center)