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Threshold: Byron Kim 1990 - 2004 at MCASD
Byron Kim, Grunion Run, 2001. Oil on canvas, 90 x 92. Collection of Stephen and Maryan Ackley.
SAN DIEGO, CA.- The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will present Threshold: Byron Kim 1990 – 2004, on view May 27 through September 4, 2005 at its La Jolla location (700 Prospect St). Threshold is the first solo museum exhibition of Kim’s work, and offers an overview of the artist’s career, focusing on his significant body of easel paintings, presenting four major bodies of paintings produced since 1989.

Byron Kim is one of the most important American artists to come of age in the early 1990s. For the past decade he has maintained a steadfast commitment to exploring the potential content of abstract painting, drawing on post-war traditions of monochrome painting exemplified by Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings and Brice Marden’s waxy fields of color, as well as by Mark Rothko and other New York School painters of the abstract sublime.

Color in its various aspects — as fact, as signifier, and as metaphor — continues to dominate Kim’s work. The exhibition includes works from several series that have occupied Kim during the last decade. These include small canvases whose colors pinpoint particular events and places in his childhood, such as Miss Mushinski (First Byron Kim, Grunion Run, 2001 Oil on canvas, 90 x 92 Collection of Stephen and Maryan Ackley Big Crush), 1996, and 1984 Dodge Wagon, 1994; a series based on celadon pottery of Asia (Koryô Green Glaze #1, 1995–96), and wall-sized landscapes inspired by poet William Wordsworth (I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, 1997). His recent Sunday Paintings—sky studies à la John Constable—include the addition of text, forming a kind of personal journal for the artist.

Byron Kim’s work first came to prominence with the inclusion of his painting, Synecdoche (1991–present), in the 1993 Whitney Biennial. A grid of hundreds of 8 x 10-inch panels —each painted a single shade of peach, beige, or brown, matched to people’s skin colors and rendered from life by the artist —Synecdoche is in essence a group portrait that expands to address issues of race and community.

Kim wrote about this work in progress in “An Attempt at Dogma” (Godzilla Newsletter, 1992): “In a sense these paintings are representational, even figurative.… ‘Synecdoche’ as a whole will have the look of a huge, formalist painting. This tradition in art has been an elite tradition, and the group of people allowed to gain prominence within the bounds of this tradition is a highly exclusionary club. Like all good abstract and romantic monochrome paintings (and as its title suggests) “Synecdoche” will imply a much larger, boundary-less work. While I want these chips of brown and beige to push in and pull back and give visual pleasure, I also want them to have the mundane flicker of an art that is inclusive as a matter of fact.”

Byron Kim, who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, was born in La Jolla, California, in 1961. He studied art at Yale and at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, and, Tsai writes, “came of age as an artist in the early 1990s, a moment when buzzwords like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘identity politics’ ruled the day, and artists and institutions attempted to come to terms with the thorny relationship between power in the art world and the politics of race.” Kim was thus in tune with other young artists, including friends Glenn Ligon and Janine Antoni, who were investing Minimalist strategies with issues of ethnic and racial identity and personal biography.

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