Minku Kim (b.1989, Seoul, South Korea) is a painter who lives and works in New York City. He was recently the subject of solo exhibition, ‘Foundation’ at Alexander Berggruen Gallery in Upper East Side, New York and ’Straight Edge Painting’ at Helen J Gallery in Hollywood, CA. His solo shows include exhibitions at Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, CA and his paintings have been exhibited in international art fairs such as Art Basel Miami, Park Avenue Armory in New York, and FOG Art and Design in San Francisco, Dallas Art Fair in Texas as well as the upcoming Frieze LA in 2021 in Los Angeles. Kim’s work has been collected by numerous prestigious private collections in New York, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, Brussel, and around the world. Currently, Kim is working on his first publication of ‘Straight Edge Paintings (2016-2020)’ Minku Kim’s paintings are windows and diaries into psychological spaces where stillness and fullness emerge from parallel brush marks and rich colors. Motifs as horizon line, sunset, windows evoke a sense of memory and play as a portal into an artist's interest in space and sublime beauty. He earned his MFA in Sculpture from New York Studio School in 2017 and BFA in Painting from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2012. He attended the Cooper Union Outreach Program, the Marie Walsh Sharpe Summer Seminar and New York School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture.
A conversation between Minku Kim and The Canvas
Tell us a bit about how you entered the world of art.
When I originally immigrated to New York about 15 years ago, I had a great difficulty communicating in English, and discovered art to be a transformative experience to create a dialogue with my inner self. Then during high school, the art department chair encouraged me to pursue Fine Art which led me to attending MICA where I continued to study and practice painting. Following college, I travelled to California but returned to New York City where my family lives. Since I have been in New York, I have been immersing myself with the museum and gallery exhibitions, meeting various professionals, and staying prolific in my studio.
When it comes to the work itself, do you feel pressure to maintain a certain aesthetic to please existing collectors?
I’ve been making a conscious effort to remind myself why I got into the art making in the beginning and be as honest and authentic to my interest and strengths. I set myself in an environment where I could maximize my creative outputs. As soon as you start to worry and count on others' expectations and needs, my studio practice becomes more of a ‘work’ rather than a fun play: ‘creative journey’. I have a vision of decades of studio agenda that I want to execute and I could only achieve my goals through my hard work each and every day.
Your process involves a tremendous amount of layering applied to each piece, with an initial chaos never fully revealed to the public that is then reduced to a calm, tranquil sensation. Additionally, many may not know how you are simultaneously working on a large body of work, even shifting daily between many pieces, adding new layers of paint to your work. Has this approach always been part of your creative process?
The great paintings in history have both pictorial and metaphysical depth to the picture through the process of layering. From Leonardo Da Vinci to Willem De Kooning, and Richard Diebenkorn to Piet Mondrian, they all knew the magic and inevitability of working through the layering process by constantly editing; therefore, enriching the painting by the corrections.
I have been working on half a dozen to a dozen of paintings in a day because the way I was using oil paint in my paintings. Lately, I’ve been working on one large painting at a time so that I could dedicate an immense amount of time and mental energy to each painting with acrylic paint. My working methods are determined by my guidelines and creative process.
One of my favorite quotes by Picasso is “Give me a museum, and I’ll fill it”. And what I took from that was, I will make enough quality work to fill up a huge space. I believe in the virtue of being prolific and experimental but then I have this need to edit down the work. Most often, my work tends to be a reductive process by starting with a lot of information then starting to simplify and articulate the chaos to order. I start with every kind of potential that then leads to a specific experience. My work is a kind of pseudos philosophy and serious modern painting, but at the same time it’s for everyone to think, feel and enjoy
What new areas are you seeking to explore next?
I would like to welcome a wide variety of creative opportunities in any format. I am interested in collaborating with master printer (Monotypes, Lithograph), book makers, product designers, furniture designers, web designers, clothing designers, etc.
So what if you could collaborate or partner with a brand, who would that be?
Someday, I would like to do work with Supreme, Louis Vuitton and other luxurious fashion brands. However, at this very moment, I am interested in collaborating with lots of talented graphic designers, book makers, and interior designers. I also want to work with technology companies who could custom build a certain AI to paint strict lines and even switch to a different brush. It could be interesting how to automate portions of a process that takes over my studio production.
So what if you could collaborate or partner with an artist, who would that be?
Robert Nava just came over to my studio and we had great conversation about our recent paintings and ideas. He introduced me to this app where I could make drawings and paintings on my iPhone. We took one of my large work-in-progress painting into the app and Robert started to draw some animal creatures on top of my very geometric ‘S.E.P.’ It was a pretty eye-opening experience seeing how two completely opposite types of styles could co-exist. I immediately thought of Warhol-Basquiat collaboration from 1984-1985, when the two artists merged their disparate approaches into a single painting.