The marks we leave on the world and the forces of nature that erase them: These seem to be the twinned subjects of Minouk Lim’s latest show. The artist is better known in South Korea, where her works have explored the unsettling effects of urbanization. Here, she turns her focus seaward. In her 2020 video, “Portable Keeper_Sea,” a woman drifts in deep water, encircled by a ring of buoys, appearing to bide her time with the intensity of someone awaiting rebirth. Nearby are three sculptures that depict cross-sections of seashore. Their resin holds together sand and kelp alongside household detritus, including electrical wire and a half-eaten Belgian waffle. The works seem to be poetic illustrations of the Anthropocene, speaking to the idea that Earth’s most recent crust now records histories of tidal cycles and sedimentation, but also landfill junk that tells the stories of boiler rooms renovated, closets Marie Kondo-ed, toys outgrown.
If what we discard is important to Lim, so, too, is what we preserve: as with the 12 walking canes in the gallery’s front room. Lim’s friend carved the wooden forms to memorialize the civilians massacred in Mungyeong, South Korea in 1949. Lim, in turn, adorned the sticks with shells, leaflike forms and glass balls. While artworks about epochal time and the loss of cultural memory are a dime a dozen, Lim’s art distinguishes itself via small details. A spindly line in one drawing, for instance, turns out to be precisely placed thorns from prickly castor-oil trees.