Kibong Rhee – the Cloudium
Arko Art Center's Representative Artist Exhibition is devoted to presenting artworks by established artists leading Korea's contemporary art scene. The annual exhibition selects and invites artists who receive insufficient attention despite their extraordinary oeuvre and contribution to the growth of Korean contemporary art. In 2012, Arko Art Center presents an exhibition by the artist Kibong Rhee, an artist celebrated for his works that demonstrate refined formal aesthetics and exceptional sensibility. Recognized for his works with subtle lyricism and unique conceptual nature, Rhee is an influential artist representing the Korean contemporary art world. Rhee has devoted a long time researching, experimenting, and applying diverse material in his work. The special nature of his material grasps the viewer and functions as an important element that stimulates the viewer's senses. 'Through his material, Rhee expresses a certain flow that's not visibly concrete but has a definite impact. Built of countless stages between birth and death, the world the artist sees exists in cognitive and sensorial dimension rather than being a certain physical form. Rhee confesses that traversing up and down the stages signifies the essence of existence. In this sense, the experimentation with diverse material can be seen as an encounter of the artist's consciousness or body with the material rather than as an exploration into the physical property of the material. The formative language of 'coming in and out of form' that's seen frequently in Rhee's work is a visual rendering of a certain feeling of navigating through the stages, and a sense of non-existence that exists between the stages. The medium of water is an effective element that suggests such a process of movement in a lyrical yet sensorial way. In a transitory state between liquid and gas, the vapor most aptly expresses a feeling of the continuum that consists of a mixture of contradictory elements like reason and the senses. By completely clouding up the space between the work and the viewer, the perception of the work escapes from being limited to the vision, to engaging the various senses of the whole body. The unique spatial atmosphere that Rhee creates in his work suggests the viewer to go beyond the mere cognitive appreciation of his work, to meditate upon it centering on the body as a mixture of reason and senses.
■ Won-seok Koh