Critics’ Picks

View of “Animalia,” 2011.

Los Angeles

Kim Beom

Gallery at REDCAT
631 West 2nd Street
April 22–June 19

In Spectacle, 2010, Kim Beom’s riveting remake of a popular scene in nature programs, an antelope chases a leopard, effecting a paradigmatic shift in the predator-prey relationship on a golden savannah that metaphorically suggests the possibility of a shift in the polarities—age, race, gender—according to which the stubborn and often invisible boundaries controlling access to power are frequently drawn. The reversal is characteristic of this Seoul-based artist’s practice, which over the past two decades has staged poetic complications of numerous accepted truths and categories.

This exhibition also features works from the 2010 series “Educated Objects.” For example, in Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing but Tools, a variety of household items are seated on tabletop chairs before a blackboard scribbled with lecture notes; a video exhibited on a monitor next to the blackboard depicts a teacher patiently instructing the objects in their role as tools, empathizing with their plight while debunking as a childish fancy the idea that objects could ever be alive. In keeping with the artist’s malleable interpretation of perspective, the lecture’s negation of animism simultaneously sets it up as a valid possibility that merits contradiction.

A stone is educated about poetry in A Rock That Learned the Poetry of JUNG Jiyong, 2010. The artist explained in an interview with the gallery that Jung’s writing was long considered taboo because the poet was rumored to have defected to North Korea. Subtle sociopolitical references like this constitute a vital undercurrent in Kim’s work, adding another dimension to his metaphysical approach to the intersection between fiction and reality. This sensibility is heightened by drawings from the ongoing series “Perspective and Blueprints,” 2002–; in one, a cloud is transformed into a spy ship; another depicts a safe house for a tyrant resembling a chilling and isolated fairy-tale castle.