Shanghai

Kim Inbai, Things Modeled on 2, 2019, resin, dimensions variable.

Kim Inbai, Things Modeled on 2, 2019, resin, dimensions variable.

Kim Inbai

ARARIO GALLERY SHANGHAI 阿拉里奥画廊

Kim Inbai titled one of his monographs Eliminate Points, Lines, and Planes (2014). That would be a bold commandment for any artist, but for one who works in the traditional media of sculpture and drawing, it reveals a truth so wise that very few ever grasp it, and those who do can rarely accept it: that to align yourself with the impossible is the only position worth considering.

Much of Kim’s work has taken the form of sculpture, but it has often been fed by drawing. He selects drawings to be turned into three-dimensional objects, and then as often as not draws upon those objects. The resulting works shatter the confines of dimensionality, of perceptive limits. Abstraction thrashes against figuration and, within that figuration, between the human and the animal (in those instances where we’re not one and the same).

Kim’s latest exhibition, consisting of just six works, is a spatial concert of thematic irruptions. One walks in to be confronted by Things Modeled on 2, 2019, consisting of two sculptures of legs in white resin, positioned across the room at weird angles from one another: a split person. One is elevated on a round black table, the other on a black wooden box. The perfectly sculpted legs culminate at the top in ribbons of fleshy sludge yearning to coalesce into anatomical correctness—though if they did, they would hardly be worth contemplating.

The sculptures are surrounded by three large pencil drawings, all titled Backside. (One is dated 2019; two are dated 2018.) Each carries a series of vertical lines, with one long line forming the center. My favorite of the three looks from afar like an accumulation of gray dust. Seen up close, more detail emerges: The drawings are just repetitive slashings, but toward either side, these marks are longer and more spaced out; as they move toward the center they grow slimmer (less spaced) and shorter in length, also darker, ultimately forming a big curved line going down the middle.

A fourth work titled Backside, 2018, is encountered in the gallery’s second room. Surprise! It’s a sculpture rather than a drawing, just a thin metal line, resin-coated on a wooden plinth, with the barest inference of a leg and foot. Its shadow extends its presence onto the floor and wall behind it.

The Backside sculpture is triangulated with a five-part sculptural work whose title commands us simply to Count, 2017. These heads forgo plinths to hang from the ceiling. Did they once belong to those legs in the other room? No. These works suggest other bodies, other places, other creatures; one is a giant bird’s head, its elongated beak pointing directly to the blank space between two circular orbs that culminate in distended udders drooping toward the floor. Beneath those droopy udders stand two minuscule feet—as though broken off a toy figurine.

Space is the place we invade in order to learn something. Or to unlearn, if we know too much already. What good are all these goings and comings if not to get more presence? The show’s Korean title, “Eoliseog-eun ja,” would once have meant “foolish,” but its current sense is “child”; the linguistic ambiguity is deliberate. Kim might think of himself as a sort of anti-philosopher working in space, but the philosopher side carries a bit more weight than the anti side.

Of course the opulent whiteness of all these objects might sound the signifier alarm of très coréenne for some, but the ultimate void-tackling going on here is universal in spirit. Kim makes art for people whose thoughts traverse mind-benders such as “Which you is really me?” I’m sure Kim will show us the answer to that one, too, as soon as he discovers it.