UO's Schnitzer Museum to present Su Kwak exhibition

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art will present the West Coast premiere of “Light Journey: An Odyssey in Paint” – a retrospective exhibition of the art of Su Kwak – for two months beginning May 28.

The exhibition, in the Schnitzer Museum's Focus Gallery, is organized by the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University and curated by Jungsil Lee.

It will open with a free, public reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, May 31. Kwak will lead an artist’s talk on Saturday, June 1, at 2 p.m.

The exhibition brings together 31 pieces of work that affirm the artist’s distinctive use of light and color to capture her spiritual life.

“Viewers find that they can feel Kwak’s paintings as much as see them with their eyes; surfaces appeal to the sense of touch with their folds, tears, gestures and textures,” says Gregg Hertzlieb, Brauer Museum of Art director and exhibition curator, in the foreword of the exhibition catalog.

“Acrylic paint enhances and encases areas in her pieces, acknowledging the artifice of art but also transforming what we know into something entirely new that engages us with its inventiveness,” Hertzlieb says.

Part of the exhibition includes “Beyond Light,” a series of 14 works that correspond to the “14 Stations of the Cross” – the commemoration of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. Kwak created abstract images of each station using acrylic paint on plaster and paper. Combining paint and paper, and sometimes incorporating Bible pages into the work, Kwak uses different overlapping shapes to create a highly sculptural painting.

The installation is meant to be viewed from the right to the left, analogous to writing Hebrew. In addition to their Christian connections, Kwak’s works also reference spirituality, East and West, in a more general sense.

Su Kwak was born in Busan, a port city on the Southeastern tip of Korea, and grew up near the seashore and the mountains of her native country. She moved to the United States in 1973, arriving with just one suitcase of belongings, to pursue her American dream.

Settling first in Texas, Kwak became involved in an interdenominational church prior to attending the University of St. Thomas in Houston, where she majored in art. In 1979, she completed her master's degree with honors at the University of Chicago, where she developed a semi-abstract landscape style.

Kwak is represented by the June Kelly Gallery in SoHo, New York, and the Sun Gallery in Seoul, Korea. Kwak’s paintings may be found in many museums and public collections, including the prestigious National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea; Seoul Museum of Art; Asian-American Arts Centre, New York; and the Korean Embassy in Washington, D.C. She has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and Korea. In 2002, she published her memoir, “Light in the Heart: Art and Love.”

The UO exhibition of Su Kwak’s “Light Journey: An Odyssey in Paint” is made possible at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art with funding from The Farwest Steel Korean Art Endowment.

- from the UO's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art