Versatile Skins in Taehoon Choi's Sculpture | Dae Hyung Lee (2017 Venice Biennale Korean Pavillion Art director)
Radical changes in art started with the arrival of iron as a material for sculpture about a century ago. From Pablo Picasso to Anthony Caro, iron has evolved to one of the primary materials for contemporary sculpture. Why does iron matter? Partly for symbolic reasons: it is the common material of industry. But mainly, as it turns out, it matters for formal reasons. Iron is structure, not mass. It has more abstract presence, expressed in line and plane rather than continuous mass surface, in openness rather than solidity.
Here is an artist, People describe him as an iron master. Taehoon Choi, who has explored the existential nature of humans and their industrial cut slabs and hammered plates. The viewer encounters an unbelievable interplay of heaviness and weightlessness. Dematerializing the solid metal by torching and hammering, Taehoon Choi's sculpture explores under the skin of heavy iron.
The perceived weightlessness of Taehoon Choi's sculpture depends, to some degree, on his "plasma" torching technique. He has forcefully disavowed the visual effects of the cold and metallic texture by distorting, burning, tearing the skin of the material. The surface of Choi's sculpture moves inward and outward in a manner impossible to anticipate. This visual experience is even more pronounced in the way he treats the materials. These curvy skins initially brought to mind a range of nautical references, but once you scrutinize them, you are reminded of rather more primal configurations. In his poised, curvaceous constructions, he frequently interrupted, filled, or striated negative space with bronze wire, or gave positive form to save with a mass of hammered bronze, He simply creates an organic structure with two different skins.
Choi's stringent experiments with the language of sculpture of his new series of works converge with abstract formalism, but his intentions are always expressive in a traditional way. This explains why, over the years, the shift in his work tend toward a reinvestment of his sculptural language with expressive refinement. Choi himself accounts for the shifts in esthetic in his sculptural. "I am trying to discover multi-faceted aspects of material, form, and message trapped within the skin of iron, bronze, stainless steel. Weight and weightlessness, dignity and frivolity in my sculpture are heavily dependent on the way I treat the skins." The curvy structure creates an illusive gestalt on the skin of the gigantic sculpture.
Choi has always been more stimulated by painting than sculpture, according to his own testimony. "Sculpture originated from the interplay between forms and ideas, while painting is all about the interaction between expressive color and rational ideas. I am into materializing those expressive colors in my monochrome materials." There is no imposed narrative, but his works are embodiments of energies and expressions from a site specific source.
Choi's sculpture is difficult to read. It is unambiguously there, physically present. His recent sculpture is even more insistent, refusing to remain isolated on a pedestal, but instead competing for the very space we occupy. It asks to be perceived through our awareness of our own bodies, forcing us to draw upon our accumulated experience of how it feels to occupy space, to move, to resist gravity, to touch, his sculpture has energy to create its own place and space, and to work in contradiction to the space and place where it is created. Transmuting iron into the illusion of weightlessness, Taehoon Choi's work heightens the visual analogies between analogies between sculpture and space to an aesthetic level.