Between Horizons

Korean Ceramic Artists in the US

Sep 10th - Dec 31st, 2023

Between Horizons explores the human instinct to travel and pursue new ideas through the artwork of fifteen Korean American artists. Their ceramic sculptures embody the shifting personal narratives generated by the brave decision to move to a new country in search of new perspectives. The exhibition will explore questions around how this geographic change impacted their identity as artists, how experiencing new culture has impacted their making and thinking about art, and how they each see themselves after experiencing two distinct societies. The topic is particularly timely for our institution after our own recent move, and our commitment to our new neighborhood where many immigrant families live.

Co-Curators Mi-Kyoung Lee and Jennifer Zwilling invited artists: Ahrong Kim, Sukjin Choi, Joon Hee Kim, Yeonsoo Kim, Gunyoung Kim, Kyungmin Park, Jae Won Lee, Yehrim Lee, Minah Kim, Sunkoo Yuh, and Jinsik Yoo

The choice to focus on Korean ceramic artists in American came first because of the incredible work they are making. The curatorial inquiry into this group of extremely talented artists, revealed a common experience of growing up in South Korea, beginning their art education there, and then moving to the US or Canada to pursue graduate studies in ceramic art. This group represents a larger trend that began after 1989, when the South Korean government relaxed travel rules and Koreans seeking new ideas and further education in many disciplines travelled abroad to gain wider perspectives and broaden their horizons.

Change is a common theme among the artists’ work. Many use narrative to reveal tensions they feel between South Korean and US/Canadian cultures. Ahrong Kim recounts her need to recalibrate her sense of artistic “quality” and herself as an artist during her studies in the US. She recalls a shift from physical perfection to conceptual rigor. It is her ability now to embrace both that gives her work its power. Yehrim Lee connected in the US with material experimentation through a partnership with ceramic scientists at Alfred University. Jinsik Yoo searched for a way to communicate his emotions in three dimensions. New perspectives of himself as a citizen of the world led to a breakthrough.

A worthwhile exhibition requires more than a group of talented artists with similar life experiences. Three other major factors point to this as a relevant exhibition topic for this moment at The Clay Studio. Immigration to pursue new ideas is a perpetually relevant topic in the US. Communities across the nation, very much including our new neighborhood, can relate to the topic through their personal immigration stories.  The Clay Studio will have just experienced our own geographic transition in 2022 with repercussions around identity and new perspectives. Finally, a planned major exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art dedicated to Korean artists around the world, all convinced our staff and Exhibition Council that Between Horizons would be meaningful to our hyperlocal community, the local and national art world, and the international ceramic art world. 

To move is to grow. When we leave our homes, we encounter new ways of living and thinking that help us understand our homes in the sharp focus that can only come with distance. This concept is at the core of what it means to be American. Between Horizons is a case study of artists who have moved from South Korea to America, and what they gained from their transition. Visitors to the exhibition will bring their own stories of immigration and transplantation to contemplate their personal relationship with place, home, and change through this incredible artwork.