Cute on the face
Erika Yowell, Las Vegas CityLife (February 01, 2007)


There`s substance beyond the sweetness of Sugar Rush

BY HERE IN LAS VEGAS, MEDIA COVERAGE WOULD have us believe the most interesting things going on in Asia are localized in Macao and Singapore. It`s true, Las Vegas-based gaming corporations are making significant inroads in those areas and, consequently, there are many Las Vegans with a substantial vested interest in what`s going on there.

For those living in Asia, however, all eyes have been turned toward South Korea for the last several years. It seems other Asian nations have been overtaken by what has been dubbed the "Korean Wave," and they`re quickly developing an appetite for South Korean films, television and music.

Perhaps it`s a distant cousin of this phenomenon that can be credited for bringing a different kind of Korean pop cultural expression to Las Vegas` Reed Whipple Gallery. Sugar Rush, an exhibit comprising work by three South Korean artists working in diverse media, is an exuberantly Pop art show that makes unabashed use of sweetness without being cloying. Sugar Rush is absent the cutesy weirdness that would surely accompany a show of the same title featuring Japanese artists. Simply put, there are no winking bunny rabbits or other fuzzy little anime beasties in sight.

Instead, Sugar Rush features paintings incorporating found objects by Yunsook Park (who also curated the show), chromogenic print photographs by JeongMee Yoon and sticker "sculptures" by Eun Young Choi. Park`s paintings greet the gallery visitor first. She uses lowly, domestic detritus in her "Winter Green 7`s," which are collages of New York State lottery tickets set against acrylic paintings. Meanwhile, her three paintings called "Stick" use 99-cent, stick-up air fresheners as the jumping-off point for her oil and acrylic paintings, which seek to create a brand identity for generic, rather banal, household items. Both of these series of paintings are effective. Park, who has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York and a bachelor of arts Magna Cum Laude in Korean Literature from Sogang University in Seoul, deftly combines her painting skills with textual references in creating the works displayed here.

Yoon`s large, square-format photographs in her "Pink and Blue Project" provide the vehicle for showcasing contemporary society`s inclination to make princes and princesses out of very young children. "Emily and Her Pink Things" is one of four photographs displayed that picture a little girl enthroned amid a collection of every pink toy, book, clothing item and pair of shoes the moppet owns. Similarly, Yeachan and his "Blue Things" shows a rather overwhelmed pre-toddler -- who looks on the verge of a crying jag -- sitting amid a whopping assortment of his blue possessions. The curatorial statement for the show says these items reveal "nuances of taste and culture that emerge as part of childhood play" and investigate "color as a coded gender marker" while providing a critical look at social control and stereotypes. It`s likely the photographs do, this, too, but they mainly succeed in showcasing how modern parents tend to abjectly spoil their tots with ticky-tack junk. They`re brilliantly composed, though, and exquisitely detailed; the viewer can spy the name brands emblazoned on every item.

Finally, Choi`s sticker extravaganzas amount to site-specific, intuitively composed installations incorporating blue and silver Mylar circles and thousands of ready-made stickers in a work collectively titled "Apple Juice Kisses & Champagne Farts." Choi began using stickers in her pieces while working on window dressing at a mall in Queens, where she used them to gently underscore the consumerist bent of the setting. Today, she employs stationery-store stickers of all descriptions -- everything from fish and flowers to miniature grinning hamburgers and milkshakes -- in her work. This installation effervesces and swirls in large scale across three walls of the gallery, offering moments of glee to the viewer who ventures close enough to investigate the stickers that make up the design. Ultimately, it showcases her masterful design sensibility and ability to make treacly cutesiness ultra cool.

Sugar Rush
Through April 8
Reed Whipple Cultural Center Gallery
821 Las Vegas Blvd. N.