The Power of the Gaze
Elli Chrysidou & Heejung Kim
Paris Koh Fine Arts
by Jonathan Goodman, April 13, 2023
Paris Koh Fine Arts, long involved in the art world, regularly presents challenging shows, often including artists with a Korean background. This particular show, includes Elli Chrysidou, from Greece, and Heejung Kim, from New Jersey (but originally Korean). They have been brought together by the curator Thalia Vrachopoulos, who specializes in working with the art of these two cultures. In the show, the combination of different backgrounds results in two very different kinds of art,but both bear a conceptual orientation that invests their imagery with depth.
Chrysidou’s works on paper, of a single red outlined eye surrounded by an abstract red filigree, by elements of historical prints, and by simple representations of vegetation, are lined up singly or in rows on the walls of the gallery.The images are painted on simple paper; the overall effect of many open eyes staring back at the viewer, might be read in any number of ways–for example, a re-envisioning of surrealist imagery, or a metaphorical treatment of vision, which inevitably contains metaphorical suggestion. Perhap even a recognition of the extraordinary amount of surveillance taking place now all over the world.
Chrysidou makes no claims for the symbolic meaning of her work. But, trained as we are as an audience, her art is inevitably given a weighted validity that extends beyond the image itself. This means that Chrysidou’s art can and should be read simply for what it is, and as a suggested symbolism. The latter enables the work to be in a way that expands its visual meaning into the realm of ideas. Her eyes establish a silent dialogue, in which communication may occur without our knowing what its content is. This intensifies the hidden meaning of the work.
Kim is a sculptor who began in Korea but who has lived in New Jersey for many years. Her two most prominent works in the show, “Life as a Fragile Journey” (2011), a sizable column of light-colored, tightly sewn bags marked by the addition of blue eye motifs, establish weight and complicated relations between forms that support the overall presence of the work. Today, after the highpoint of minimalism and the major works of Eva Hesse, tangible simplicity is something we thoroughly accept and are used to. Here Kim plays off a Western tradition, not an Asian one, although art now made in East Asia is very much aware of recent developments in contemporary efforts worldwide. But this work, not indicative of an Asian sensibility adheres to a common esthetic: a homogeneity across cultures. The question of a particular influence’s culture has become moot in light of today’s sameness of impulse.
"Come and Go" (2009), by Kim, a wall installation consisting of a chance arrangement of shoes with blue eye disks where the opening to the shoe occurs, feels both happenstance and consciously designed. In both the tall sculpture and the wall relief, the visual idiom belongs to a culturally indeterminate style. For that matter, neither does the installation of mostly red outlined eyes on a red/white background make contact with a specifically Greek manner of working. Kim takes part in an established vernacular, dating back to sculptural art and installation art originating in the Sixties. Her sculpture is an excellent extension of what has nearly become a historical understanding of three-dimensional art. Chrysidou’s eyes, which relay neither friendly nor hostility, might best be seen as presenting a surreal presence, in which realism serves larger psychological purposes. We need not speculate too much; these works stand on their own. But the show makes it clear that, more and more, art has lost stylistic specificity in favor a generalized vernacular.