NEW YORK CITY — You can’t go three days in contemporary ceramic art reporting without having to write about consumer culture and conspicuous consumption. The artists raising these points are right to do so, but there are times when they get heavy handed. Maybe some of them imagine themselves like a ghost at a feast, pointing a spectral finger at the marketplace and prophesying all sorts of horrible things for it… before they happily accept obscene amounts of money from the very thing they’re condemning.
Above image: Jae Yong Kim, Le Petit Donut Soup, 2016; ceramic, underglaze, glaze and glitter, 5 x 5 x 1 1/2 inches. Photographs courtesy of the Lyons Wier Gallery.
So as artists undermine their own message through either overuse or hypocrisy, someone needs to revive it with a different approach. Jae Yong Kim, a Hartford Art School Graduate who works out of his studio in Jersey City, New Jersey, adapted the message by turning recognizable works of Pop Art into donuts. His exhibition, Pop Goes the Donut (New York, April 14 – May 14th) recently wrapped up at the Lyons Wier Gallery. They speak to consumption with good humor. They avoid Old Testament-style fire and brimstone, but smirkingly suggest that one should approach art with moderation. After all, you can only eat so many donuts before you start to look like Homer Simpson.
The metaphor works for artists, too. Seeing the parody of Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog rendered in donut struck a chord with me. As Koons churns out thousands of “super rare ultra limited for realz” editions of this one piece of work, I can imagine him visiting the factory floor where they make these things and telling his workers, “It’s time to make the donuts.” (Here’s an aside: are there factory defects of Balloon Dog? Could Koons one day have a seconds sale of this work? or do all of his rejected Balloon Dogs go to heaven?)
Another refreshing thing about the show is Kim’s discretion, which keeps the exhibition fun rather than preachy. He still has a deep, loving respect for his subjects. It’s similar to the glee you feel when you come into work on what would otherwise be a miserable Tuesday morning, only to find that some saint of the office brought in a box of donuts for everyone.
“Without my intention, references to Pop Art have been a consistent occurrence throughout the entirety of the donut artworks. Questioning myself regarding the donuts falling in line with a specific genre has brought questions and need for understanding. Each individual donut has invariably read to me as a small painting; color, pattern and physicality have been the ultimate procedure for my personal expression. How can these miniature sculpture/paintings speak out as larger works? Investigating Pop artists that have come before me act as a bridge to a sensible starting point for new works. Donut groupings that dictate popular artworks show a rich sense of history and are an observation of American contemporary art, especially Pop art. Finding the strength within certain artists and developing them into donut artworks establishes a new ground of relief sculpture studied through painting.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to daydream about bowls of donut soup.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
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A graduate of Hartford Art School (West Hartford, CT) and Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI), Jae Yong Kim has shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions including the University Gallery, University of Bridgeport, CT, New Space Gallery, Manchester Community College, Manchester, CT, American University Museum, Washington DC, The Waterfall Mansion and Gallery, New York, NY. Kim’s work is featured in the collection of the Han Hyang Lim Ceramic Museum in Korea. Jae Yong Kim lives in Korea and New York and works from his studio in Jersey City, NJ.