Wandering through the makeshift corridors of talent at the Artist Project last weekend was more than a pleasant respite from the cold. The rows were jammed with familiar faces such as Rob Croxford and Stewart Jones, as well as some promising work from newer faces. One such emerging talent was Youngsoo Kim, whom I discovered at the back of the show nestled into the “Untapped” section just past the numerous lemonic interpretations created for the annual People’s Choice awards.
Unfortunately, like several of the artists I’ve ventured to contact recently, Kim is not from Toronto. Youngsoo Kim is Korean born, and educated at New York’s prestigious Parsons. He did grow up in Oakville however, and lays credit to Winnipeg art-star Marcel Dzama for inspiring him to show his work unabashedly on paper rather than concentrating on cultivating more pristine presentation techniques.
Kim’s pencil and ink drawings are reminiscent of the awkward surrealism of Marcel Dzama or Balint Zsako, though desaturated and mostly desexualized. His subject matter can seem frighteningly narrow, focusing on sea-mines and elephants, “elephants are my personal obsession,” in unexpected situational juxtapositions.
Despite a few possibly archetypal examples, Kim insists that his work is not intended to be political or social commentary. He mentioned that several visitors to the Artist Project took offence to what he considered his only painting in the show, An Elephant Giving Birth, which features an elephant headed woman with a tiny elephant taking the last few strides necessary to casually exit her vagina. All of his work, he explains, is simply the realization of random imagery that comes to him while wandering on his travels.
His plans sound quite typical of one trying to recover from art-school. He envisions working on a grander scale, expanding his conceptual framework and possibly even his monotone palette. His parents are encouraging him to move back to Toronto, a choice which could offer him a welcome alternative to the obligatory military service that awaits him if he chooses to back to Korea.
As our conversation was wrapping up, Kim noted that he would be visiting two galleries recommended to him during a conversation at the artist project, so I offered to draw him a quick map of some of the spaces in the west-end. After jotting down a labeled walking tour in his notebook taking him up Spadina, Tecumseth, Queen, Ossington and Dundas, I could see Kim’s interest pique. Unsurprisingly, after marinating in New York for the last four years, he was obliviously unaware of the diverse art community within this city.
Who knows, maybe this article will end up being about a Toronto artist after all.