Using simple and banal objects, Jinkee Choi makes poignant, poetic and often rather humorous sculptures. He can make art out of anything. He is one of my favorite artists in the exhibition and also the First Prize winner, which is really no surprise: his works are not only original but simultaneously astonishing, assertive and playful. Simple, light, spare and imaginative, they are each like a wondrous haiku, There is nothing monotonous, mechanical, or obvious about them, the usual bane of appropriation sculpture of this kind.

Benjamin Genocchio

New York Times art critic

Juror of the 2009 AHL Foundation Visual Art Award

Choi's sculptures play with meaning and metaphor. His small sculptures combine a surrealist sensibility with banal everyday materials in ways that are unexpected and humorous while poignant and poetic. They're imaginative without being prescriptive, opening up all sorts of fun possibilities for interpretation.

Nathalie Angles, Melissa Chiu, and Benjamin Genocchio

Jinkee Choi’s Canada Goose Airplane I, 2009

ceramic doll and acrylic paint, 3 x 4 x 10 inches

One of several manipulated found objects of sharp subversive humor by this artist on view at Gana Art Gallery as part of the AHL Foundation’s sixth annual Visual Arts Competition winners’ exhibition, in which he won first prize. “Eclectic Visionaries” features six Korean and Korean-American artists: jurors were Nathalie Anglès, Melissa Chiu, and Benjamin Genocchio, and the show was curated by Hyewon Yi. Other exhibitors are Jarrett Min Davis, whose fantasy realist paintings fuse Korean and American folkloristic elements; video artist Yeon Jin Kim; sensitive still-life photographer Jeonghyun Lee; graphite-animation artist Kakyoung Lee; and sculptor Jaye Moon, maker of sexy, streamlined Plexiglas valises. Through August 29, 568 West 25th Street.

This was an artcritical PIC in August 2009

David Cohen

Editor at

Jinkee Choi’s project, Autistic Optimism, transforms mass-produced items into poignant, poetic sculptures. Often humorous, the small sculptures prove that the most banal objects can stimulate the imagination. In this show, he gives a traveler’s consumer waste new beginnings.

2008 Heather Darcy Bhandari

Director at Mixed Greens Gallery, New York NY

Pinning Eye: Different Stages of Resemblance

2005 Yoo, Jin-Sang

Professor at Kaywon College of Art and Design/Director of Kukje Gallery, Seoul Korea

We call the space where the objects and events 'exist' in the unconsciousness. The negative implication of the term, unconsciousness is originated from our conscious-oriented or the speech-oriented perspective. In fact if we allow ourselves a little distance from the consciousness, rather the self-centered system, we can find the subjectivity in the semantic system that has been blanketed most of the elements in the world. Unconsciousness forces you to consider relationship between the objects and events that happen through such relationships to be accidental, improbable, or even insane. Above all, the unconsciousness, which is residing outside awareness, is declared as the category encompassing ‘non-existential things’ that language cannot define. Nevertheless, what only exists in reversed sense is ‘unconscious’ matters because consciousness, or the objectives understood by semantics are the very ones interpreted through consciousness. They are with filtered or distorted by cognitive system, and most of all, they are perceived within the subjectively signified implication structure. Hence, the objects and events are what consciousness and language pursue, and they are also the objects always hiding aspects out of reach at the other end of consciousness, or the objects surrounded by abyss that our thought never be able to cross. Each object is isolated by the abysmal chasm all around or it can only be connected each other through the certain capability that bridges between the objects. When they are left undiscovered, they 'exist'. Things of being are either unknown or unrevealed. Things of being, if I quote Heidegger, ‘is the object of being called when we 'call' it and it, can only disclose itself through 'the act of calling (Der Ruf).' In this sense, the object or an incident that came up into our consciousness is like things we are actually 'calling'.

'The gaze' is one of the key forms of calling. It is one of the most direct forms of response to the calling for an object. Concentration of gaze means all the eyes turning upon a single viewpoint; it also implies the object that gathers all the eyes are due to the certain calling of an object. Just as Lacan said, we are not looking at an object, in fact that object is looking at us. The objects are the objective of gazing, and at the same time it is the source of gaze. Two points, two turning points of viewpoint and the objective are two cones existing between gaze and the object of the gaze. And their vertex is the tip pf needle that signifies pinning point that infinitely narrowed down, abstract point, and the location of being. According to Freud, eyes are basically something very sharp like an awl or a pick. Also it is an eye that is constantly poked by tip of a pick. An eye as a pointy penis, penetration of an eye with it, and Oedipus’s self-castration by poking his own eyes portray the epitome.

The works of Jinkee Choi consists of gazing an object rather than transforming it. Gazing something that comes up in his mind instead while he is staring at wallpaper, tiles or even stains, connected with the facts that the objects he gazed was meaningless and the gaze itself is a collection of the concentrating moments. Gazing as an answer to a calling is only relating to that moment, and it does not really mean awakening the structure of the consciousness. Maybe, it is to separate the objects and incidents from the perspective of outside the implication structure or from the ‘mouth’ so that they can be entirely perceived through the eyes. In using ‘eyes’, most common mistake is to constantly compare your findings with the implication structure. This stops and subordinates things as the signifiers: things that are yet categorized, located, signified, or determined within the relational system that refers to each other. Nevertheless, we can forecast that stoppage will take place unavoidably at one point from the question how we visualize the objects on unconscious level. Visualizing the object of the unconscious or the objects of a gaze should not be surrendered to the current implication structure. Then the art is can be defined as the methods to represent ‘outside’ in a way in which avoiding such subservient.

The way Choi draws the objects into the inside the cognition from its negative status form his singularity as an artist. From a few works of his, he overlaps the objects of the gaze with the memory of the site where first apostasy-as in original sin- was committed. For instance, the process in which an egg container is transformed to a nest, Dunkin’ donuts wrapper to donuts and ice cream package to a milking cow is about the visual representation of things that are trapped by the implication structure, rather than verbal representation. Autistic is how he describes the process because temporary lockout against the circular process of reference. Furthermore, autism implies the fact that connecting points of the objects are not circulating within implication structure and stays on the boundary of non-implicational structure. It seems that Choi imagines that objects sharing their meanings, or objects temporarily seize the implication system, furthermore, object’s way of looking at objects. However, is it really possible? Or has he named the series, ‘Optimism’ in the sense that it is only feasible within the closed circuit?

From his early works with plastics to his recent ‘Spotlight series’ and ‘Autistic Optimism’ his demonstration of lightness and instantaneousness implies the gravity or the speed that your gaze must carry when you see his works. They are even non materialistic enough to understand it is rather a clue to the resemblance between the gaze and the implication than art works. They are minimum materials for the basis that bring up substantial, specification, representation and even signification between the calling and the gazing. In extreme case, the mere spotlight that separates trivial objects from the surroundings can draw them into the relationship with gazing.

Daily lives, everyday objects, and their classes, uses and shapes found therein become of materials that compose of the artist's autobiographical documentation. So how he lives with what surroundings happens to be the main contents of his work. His works might be understood as his way of dealing with unchangeable condition in his life through the representational process. However, it does not seem to be enough to categorize his works even with his work-reconstructed ironic attitude towards the materialistic lives. His viewpoint as a weak or as a minority does not seem adequate to elaborate the conditions of the vividness in his works. Granting him a singularity is the way of understanding his gaze as analogy between objects. He certainly does show one stage of it, and his way is very witty.

Analogous relation is a contradictory concept to the implication structure. It is opposed to our obsession, which insists to place objects within the order of logic through logistic quality of language. Analogous relation may be irrational, but it intermediates the direct association with other objects through erudition on the objects, intimacy, sympathy, devotion and so on. Fundamentally, it is the groundless system and internally equipped with the most flexible system of perspectives. However, analogous relation found in Choi's works are reflexive unlike those of surrealism. The objects do not intentionally encounter with other objects that are seemingly unrelated. The objects rather engage in an autogamous relationship with things that are within themselves. Lunatic or humorous elements, which gaze extracts from the objects, connect inside and outside of the object. From those can be named as reflexive-resemblance, the framework of ‘monad’ as in Gil Deleuze’s Le Pil may also be found. It includes the technique called voisinage of the lightings by inner demarcations that may remind of spotlights.

Jinkee Choi's works are currently developed with two main layers defined as daily experiences and their another dimension as its center. What we can anticipate is the situations through which revealed are several layers of reality. I would not know for sure if this corresponds with what the artist pursues, but I would not certainly imagine that to happen. Perhaps the outlook of his works must start from here.

Looking Awry1

2004 Hyunjin Shin

SMART PROJECT SPACE, Amsterdam The Netherland

Slavoj Žižek states in his book, Looking Awry that “what the fantasy stages is not a scene in which our desire is fulfilled, fully satisfied, but on the contrary, a scene that realizes, stages, the desire as such. The fundamental point of psychoanalysis is that desire is not something given in advance, but something that has to be constructed—and it is precisely the role of fantasy to give the coordinates of the subject’s desire, to specify its object, to locate the position the subject assumes in it.” Here, if we also take Freudian idea in consideration that desire forms libido in our lives, it can be said that the reality is led by subject’s desire which is the driving force of our lives. It also can be said that this desire which is already driven by fantasies makes up reality. Reality then is different from the real and is merely a fantasy specified by individual’s own perspective through ‘looking awry.’ The moment that we can get out of the fantasy structure, therefore the moment that we see the real as a matter of fact. According to Žižek, it is when we are answered from the real.

On the premise that the reality in which we are living is just a fantasy, we can draw a methodology that can interpret Jinkee Choi’s works of art. Choi’s work leads our awry perspectives on the reality to his. He alters mundane objects with least amount of modification to show his version of the real. His installation work titled, “Oral Contraceptive-Baby in Pink (Wife wants to have a baby), for example, presents a room decorated in pink. When looked closely, one can find a small fetus shape object cut out of an oral contraceptive package vibrating because it is dangling on the tip of a straw in a cup which is placed on top of small refrigerator. The subtitle, “Wife wants to have a baby” kindly(?) the describes and persuades audience to reconsider that there might be the alternative aspects of the room. Let’s take his photo documentary, “Dead Groundhog-Angel” as another example of his redirecting the audience’s perspectives. This photograph depicts a road killed groundhog2 with a halo and wings cut out of McDonald’s paper cup he found near by the highway. Contrasting death and the advertisement of cartoonesque characteristics in Ronald McDonald, the scene allows us various readings.

However, his real still should be considered as one of the probabilities if people can’t prove otherwise because of their own desire. And his subtitles are tools to distort the audience’s view point. If there is a couple must take contraceptive despite the wife’s wish, whose reality is he trying to reveal? Should we interpret as the reality of Korean society? It is not likely that it is Choi’s intention to deal with social issues. His characteristics of game playing remind of Jung’s word association test as it is shown in his “Wall Drawing - A submarine invades the marine world.” In this work, he drew turtles and fishes on a wall using the stains and holes of the worn paint as starting point. This nursery tale like quality is consistent in his other photographs; in these photographs he created smiling icon using stained electric socket. What is left us to appreciate his work is not what to figure out from his work but which point of view we will take to imagine and enjoy.

The artist declares that his works are not serious. I do not consider his work as an expensive and luxurious art object. I even insist his work should lack the technique intensive craftsmanship. Nonetheless, his work always interests us because his works offer his audience something that the others can’t read within the same context that Choi’s audience reads. The very existence of the other, innocent third person who should not know the whole, plays very important role in the mechanism of interpretation that lies between Choi’s work and the audience. The moment the audience is finding tiny fetus figure made out of packaging in a bedroom and reading a rabbit from the crumpled plastic bag should be understood as the private dialogue between the artist and the audience. This is the only when the audience can look awry from the artists perspective. This distorted visual point should be different form the other’s. In other words, the others must see the rabbit as a crumpled plastic bag. Choi’s work then becomes the game of the gap between the real and the reality.

1 Title of this essay was taken from the book title, Looking Awry written by Slavoj Žižek.

2 Groundhog is a cute animal living in North America and classified as rat order.

The Plastic Rebellion

2002 Mi-Jin Kim

Ph. D / Director of Seo Gallery, Seoul Korea

Jinkee Choi gives new life to objects commonly seen in his studio or any household in our daily lives, by substituting those with other kinds of life forms. Each trivial moment suddenly finds its vividness when common objects like plastic rulers, correction tapes, hairbrushes, ball-point pens, etc. are transformed into a new dimension. He points out the hidden phenomena and laws that lies within commonplace objects and expresses them with wit and humor. He lets the viewers embrace in their hearts a tremendously surprising world by giving small changes to shapes that are simple, stiff and awkward looking. Like magic, he gives life to the object and the object soon calls our attention and eventually presents us with a new fantasia. The artist's habit of constantly questioning, conversing and contemplating the usual, had passed into his life itself which leads to his sincereness towards existing materials and thus enables him to endow them with vitality. His works are filled with traces of his effort to decode the hidden meanings of the objects he used, signs, and symbols. His small sculptures contain varieties of stories that range from personal ones such as hope, pain, and solitude in our daily lives to political and economic issues. Jinkee Choi catches out the society's system of veins through art. He overlaps the contradictory characteristics that lie within the object with a critical prospect and a light touch of humor. To him the plastic tools that he uses are stand-ins for the minority and the alienated. And these "has-been" tools, which were once useful gadgets, have stepped down the plate since the high-tech products made their appearance in the "Digital Era".

The goldfish made with a correction tape placed on top the computer takes you to a world of fairy tales alongside with the pink and white house-shaped pencil sharpener. The "Correction Tape Goldfish" is an implication of the difficulties of adapting life in the modern society by using the correction tape which corrects wrong lines and a goldfish which symbolizes oblivion. "The Hairbrush Porcupine" on the dresser, by turning a brush into an extremely self-defensive creature, implies the alienated minority in the society that only kowtows to the powerful, wealthy, and the educated few.

"The Cell Phone Fighting Phone Cord Dragons" has expressed the old fashioned phones that are neglected by the appearance of mobile phones in the forms of fighting dragons, "The Ball Point Lizard" and “The Bic Ball Point Loopers” were made by bending cheap ball point pens. Once, telephones and pens were an essential tool in everyday life before the arrival of computers and the internet. After these high-tech machines took place in our lives telephones and pens, once mass-produced in demand, withers away hides like a little bug. "The CD Case Crocodile" and "The Cassette Tape Crocodile" could be understood in a similar sense.

"The Sea Squirt Basin" made with a pink plastic basin holding a sea squirt inside and a vase rest, "The Grass Supported Vase Rest", and "The Flower Supported Vase Rest" are all works that where the assistant prop acts as the main character. "The 30cm Centipede" made by melting a plastic ruler and forming hundreds of legs, speaks for the modern man under restriction of myriads of rules and regulations, who are almost forced to act in a uniform manner. "The Scotch tape Snail" sitting in the space with the wall shelf tells us about the duplicity of man's knowledge which has not only been the source of development of mankind but also the obstacle in finding inner ego.

These cheap plastic objects are the alienated class of our society. They are neglected, lost, and not able to adapt the rapidly changing surroundings. Yet through the mischievousness of the artist we can comprehend the message of hope which is felicities found in our daily lives, not despair. Life that is lived knowing how to appreciate the value of its every moment, not fighting against the constitutional structures of the world.