CMay Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of works by Seoul-based artist Lim Ok Sang. This is the artist’s solo debut in Los Angeles and his first exhibition with the gallery. A quick lesson on the history of the presidency in South Korea might help viewers decode the harrowing narratives and biting symbolism embedded in Lim Ok Sang’s epic large-scale paintings. But even without knowing all the players in contemporary Korean politics, his evocative and visceral style and gift for distilling atmospheric settings into a universal emotional message get the message across clearly.
Because nothing happens in a vacuum, there are of course plenty of figures — Obama, Hillary Clinton, Kim Jong-Un — recognizable from political coverage, although notably not seen from an American perspective. Obama is a smaller-scale figure, a player in the scene but not at its center, Kim is larger as a function of proximity and ubiquity. Secretary Clinton is the subject of her own portrait, shown alone in front of a grand civic building, wrapped in mummy-like white gauze, covered save for one bright, seeking, penetrating eye. Her stance is strong, her condition, injured and restrictive. The looming, talking-heads compositions, intense palette, assertive linework, and thick impasto fleshiness of the portraiture are fused with edgy, urban, situational satire. Lim also creates depictions of landscapes and other works that are primarily abstract – both idioms that transcend language in other ways that relate to his broader practice of sculpture and public art. Interactive to say the least, he emerged as a key leader in the political resistance that emerged in South Korea the 1980s.
Excerpt from an essay written by
critic, curator, and author Shana Nys Dambrot