Korean Art Shines at 2013 Houston Fine Art Fair

One day, Houston and art got together and decided to gift Houstonians the Houston Fine Art Fair. I say 'gift' because since its 2011 debut, the Houston Fine Art Fair has truly pleased every year, 2013 being no exception.

The most pleasing aspect this year -- in my eyes -- were the 150 Korean artists featured thanks to a Korean-government sponsored pavilion. While I very much enjoyed the heavy focus on Latin American art at last year's fair, art that's made on land that's (for the most part) adjoined to America just doesn't seem as exotic as artwork rooted in Asia.

Making these pieces more enchanting was their contemporary style, as contemporary Asian art is not something we see often in the Bayou City.

I loved HWANH, Ran's "Ode to Second Love," which took a classic subject of Asian art - cherry blossoms, and presented it in a modern way, using crystals, beads, and pins.

In another display of "out with the old, in with the new," thick, well defined lines plus shades of charcoal gray were a refreshing take on Asian scenery in PARK, YOUNG-HAK's "Beyond the Scenery."

Many of the pieces hailing from Korean galleries used bright colors, creating vivid images that brightened the room and brought smiles to visitor's faces.

Case in point, the above painting by Kwon, Ki-soo.

"Artnom Happiness Painting of Peony Family" was another whimsical piece that jumped off the wall.

On the subject of happiness, "We are Happy" was one of the more interesting works; artist SunMu (a pen name due to the fact that the artist escaped from North Korea) paints an ironic picture of communism, set in North Korea. A row of seemingly identical girls wear big smiles and red scarves -- a symbol of their government, which treats them all as equals. When examined closely, the viewer sees that the girls are actually slightly different in size and facial features. SunMu tries to communicate that while the North Korean government promotes treating all its citizens as identical equals, it is a country filled with unique individuals that actually do vary in size - literally and figuratively.

Suh Jeong Min's geometrically-influenced works spoke to those with a spiritual side; the artist's many pieces on display were made of hand-made Buddhist prayer paper that's rolled, cut and glued onto wood. The artist "says a prayer of thanks" while making them and believes that "the borrowed prayers of others will bless the home or person once the work finds its final resting place," according to an accompanying description.

While the Korean pavilion stole the show, there was a day's worth of other interesting things to be seen. A lot of large-scale works of faces -- some familiar, others not -- with a texture that made the faces look like they were woven, caught my eye. Tons of references to comics appeared in art of all kinds of media. Newspaper clippings also made guest appearances in several works. Original lithographs by Miró and Lichtenstein were some of the most prominent pieces.

The bottom line? If you missed the show this year, don't miss it again next year, or you'll miss out on a spectacular world of art, right in our own backyard.

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Carla Soriano