Ken Gun Min's Gay Utopia
December 7, 2023 8:53 AM   Subscribe

"Ken Gun Min is a daydreamer. 'I have one foot in reality and the other in fantasy,' the painter says as he sits on the floor of his Koreatown studio and sews beads onto a finished canvas. 'I have a fantasy-oriented brain. I am constantly daydreaming and creating stories'" The LA Times presents a story on the artist and his big, gorgeous, sumptuously gay paintings/collages/beadwork. But also, because I cannot get enough: Ken Gun Min’s Vision of Gay Utopia (Hyperallergic). And from his 2022 show (ArtNet).
posted by mittens (5 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
These are great, thank you. They seem very LA, particularly the fusion of Korean-American, Californian, and gay imagery. Also the lushness and borrowing from Asian decorative arts reminds me in a good way of Kehinde Wiley's backgrounds borrowed from European decorative arts. But Wiley's paintings are executed with impeccable technical precision; not sure what I think of Min's more rough style.
posted by Nelson at 10:43 AM on December 7, 2023 [1 favorite]

not to cast aspersions on your comment nelson, because i think it's an interesting observation, but i do want to note that the rougher style may well be a specific choice--asian artists (especially musicians) and, to a lesser extent, workers, are often complimented on their impeccable technical precision only to be critiqued on a lack of 'soul'

i wonder if ken gun min's choice to have that rough style is in some ways a reaction to that.
posted by i used to be someone else at 2:51 PM on December 7, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'm not, like, versed in visual art, so I don't know all the--well, whatever "rhetoric" would be for a painting--but for me the roughness was part of its charm and fun, very home-made feeling, some of the collages--I'm thinking particularly of his version of the wound man, with Bert's crabby old face attached--having the feeling of something you'd cut out and share with the small group of friends who really get your sense of humor, except here, he's presenting it to the world, and there's just something intimate about that silliness, maybe even something vulnerable, compared to the much more gasp-inducing Ambiguous Yoga Club, where there is roughness (they're tearing each other up!), but the overall effect is almost dizzying, psychedelic; it is much too much, an overabundance, so many textures and parts the eye doesn't know what to do with it all. I think it's that mix--some of it fun, some of it just sumptuous and majestic--that really grabs me.
posted by mittens at 2:59 PM on December 7, 2023

In no way did I intend "rougher" as a pejorative or to suggest it wasn't intentional. Genuinely not sure what I think though. In particular his figure style for the male nudes takes them out of looking erotic and in to some sort of dream presence. That's interesting! But also not sure if I like it. I love how much they are too.

Seems worth trying to see in person. The LA article is about a gallery show (annoyingly, prices are on request). The 2022 show linked was at the MCA in Denver, "the artist’s first museum solo exhibition".

A few more links: his insta, his website, the Hopper Prize, a studio visit tour, some earlier collage-like work.
posted by Nelson at 3:37 PM on December 7, 2023

Wow, I absolutely love 13 Missing Ladies. It's so lush I want to cry, here in my bitter northwest winter gloom! I could lose myself in all that texture and color and movement.

I would love to see his work in person, to experience the textural details of the embroidery and oils close up. What a fabulous combination, to mix embroidery and painting!
posted by cnidaria at 9:19 PM on December 7, 2023

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