Kim Kei’s “I See Who You Are” on view La Sierra University through October 21st

Kim Kei art studio. Los Angeles California. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker
Kim Kei art studio. Los Angeles California. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker

Kim Kei  I See Who You Are

Curated by Nick Brown

October 3-21, 2016

Writtten by Jacqueline Bell Johnson


Kim Kei’s “I See Who You Are” curated by Nick Brown is currently on view at La Sierra University through October 21st.

Walking into the gallery, I notice how Kim Kei’s works on paper are unconventionally hung on the walls.  There is a variety of sizes: small, intimate works, along with larger, body-scale pieces hung not at the usual eye level of 60 inches but at various heights throughout the gallery.  At first read, these pieces are paintings; fragile applications with a delicate brush.  There are a few pieces that go a step further, including foil in with the paint, or stenciling with string as the top layer.  

Examining the work closely shows subtle depressions, wrinkles, and thin decal-like applications of paint on paper.  This is something that can only be accomplished with a press, and in fact, these are monoprints. Several works have crisp silhouettes inked in burgundy, black, and brown.  The press was used to create shadows on the paper, memories of the objects that kissed its surface, and thus met their demise.  Kim Kei’s handling of the press is a way to both mask and expose elements of the work.  It duplicates the mystique involved with printing: When making a print you place everything just so, then hold your breath and run it through, the roller takes it from there.  What actually happened is revealed afterward though not always in entirety.

Ms. Kei explains, “I evoke the body without depicting the figure as a form… The paper captures the cracks and wrinkles, the body’s acquired marks through time, injury, repair and illness. Creases strike through the form revealing what we attempt to keep hidden. “I See Who You Are” brings these unruly parts of ourselves fully to the surface communicating a body in motion.”

In the gallery, there are larger prints which have been sliced and separated.  The pieces are vertically hung, still together as a polyptych of sorts that take on the scale of the figure.  Slicing the pieces like this inserts harsh straight lines into the middle of an organic form.  Those parallels highlight the undulating curves on the paper (and the body).  

The most enchanting of the works feature a lovely color gradation interrupted by an organic form floating in the middle.  These prints are studies in color and most have a rather fleshy, blushing palette.  The abstract imagery reads as ubiquitous chasms, floating in the center of gradient color fields.  It is an exploration of the illusion of depth without a subject.  There is an exacting permanence created from the use of the press in these works.  It is this certainty that keeps you lost in the transition of color and makes them a pleasure to look at.

Throughout the gallery, Ms. Kei has placed the little ‘crumpled-paper-and-stuff’ sculptures.  They have the feel of fascinator hats.  Plumes of wire, string, fabric and dried paint curl out of the folds of the paper. They serve as artifacts that offer insight into how these large prints were made.  These sculptural nebulas, after all, were the objects that were run through the press to create intriguing textures and colors.  

La Sierra University
4500 Riverwalk Parkway
Riverside, CA 92515

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