Wook Choi's "Soft Paintings"

The Lobby Gallery

1155 Avenue of the Americas

March 17 to April 30, 1999


By Carter B. Horsley

In recent years some major skyscrapers in the city have turned their impressive lobbies into art galleries: Lever House was an early example; Philip Morris, the Equitable Center and the Paine Webber Building followed and now The Durst Organization, one of the city's leading developers and owners of office buildings, has begun sponsoring curated exhibitions at its tower at 1155 Avenue of the Americas.

This exhibtion of "Soft Paintings" by Wook Choi is a particularly felicitous group of painted objects, mostly soft, that incorporate some of her possessions and the works are quite powerful in their assemblage, striking in their rich color, animated in their graceful, energetic forms and poignant in their meaning.

The Korean artist's works are imbued with her devotion to and love of her family and each one evokes an opening of a bureau drawer, the rummaging of a closet, the close examination of an old photograph, and the flood of personal, private memories.

"I don't like painting just for decoration on the wall where there is no feeling, no message," Wook Choi remarked in a recent interview, adding that "painting has to say something." Her "message" is a simple one of love and affection, but her expression is quite forceful, elegant and sophisticated.

After graduating from Hong Ik University in Seoul, Korea, she got a Master of Arts Degree from New York University and has had solo exhibitions at the Washington Square East, Myung Sook Lee galleries in New York, the Kwan Hoon and Kepco Plaza galleries in Seoul and the Art & Cultural Center in Taegu, Korea and participated in group shows at the Lindenberg Gallery in New York, the Rumanian Art National Museum in Bukgareice, Rumania, the Avivson Gallery in Paris and numerous galleries in Korea. This show will travel to the The Avivson Gallery in Paris and Wook Choi will have a solo exhibit at the Phoenix Gallery at 568 Broadway in October.

"A Lovely Couple"

A woman of strong emotions, she does not hesitate to be critical of some social mores. Noting that in Korea women "have to obey," In "A Lovely Couple," shown above, the artist has put the woman in front of the the man as a more equal partner and even placed his hand on her shoulder.

In another work in the show, "Man In Love," she has created trousers with an abundance of buttons, which represent his seed. "Men with a lot of energy know how to love," she joked in the interview.

In "Family Love," a dress-like form is adorned with three photographs: her parents, herself when she was 100 days old and her brother on his first birthday.

"Pain After Giving Birth"

Another work, "Pain After Giving Birth," shown above, recalls for her difficulties when she had rheumatism and "couldn't hold a toothbrush" and was bent over clutching herself and crying. Despite such an agonized theme, the "soft painting" is very beautiful and the huge teardrops could be clouds in celestial, intertwined heavens.

Not all of her work bears quite the Oriental stamp of the two reproduced here. Some of Wook Choi's other major works involve multimedia and baby clothes and milk bottles, but the effect is never too specific, or conceptual, or didactic and her arrangements are very artistic.

Lanny L. Powers is the curator of the Lobby Gallery, which began its exhibitions about a year ago. The works are hung against large, handsome marble walls, one white and one black.


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