Harper’s is pleased to announce Carousel, Ho Jae Kim’s second solo exhibition with the gallery. Kim presents a new series of mixed media paintings, continuing his material and conceptual explorations of liminality. The exhibition culminates a rigorous engagement with his practice as a meditative space for healing and growth. Carousel opens on Thursday, March 16, 6–8pm, with a reception attended by the artist.
The centerpiece of this exhibition, its namesake painting, depicts a carousel with 31 horses signifying the days of the month. For each of these “days,” I built a unique narrative in honor of liminal spaces, the mundane, and the quotidian. Just as life continues regardless of our psychology, the carousel will turn whether or not there is a rider. While I prepared for this exhibition, I thought of the displacement I’ve experienced by tragic events out of my control. One summer night in 2022, my stepfather committed suicide. He left a brief note for my mother before driving to a nearby railroad where he waited for a train to take his life. Since then, I have been plagued with a vision of the train’s headlights—a magnificent bright light that dissolves the contours of everything in its path. I became a prisoner to this light that exists within my dark fantasy.
We rely on fleeting moments of significance to define life, but the majority of our lives are shaped by non-moments of transition, endurance, and dormancy. For this reason, I chose to create representations of less significant moments in order to build a body of work that can paint a better picture of reality. Luxurious portrayals of life as depicted in movies and pop culture cultivate dreams of becoming a character in a fantasy, but these dreams are quickly shattered by the constraints and circumstances of daily life. We become psychologically displaced and rejected by the fantasies that once served as our vitality. We begin to live in a state of purgatory, caught between reality and our dreams.
In The Divine Comedy, during the transition from the Inferno to Purgatory, Dante turns right to see the light from the east on Easter Sunday, a day of resurrection. With this new orientation, Dante’s purgatory becomes a place of hope, where lost souls can choose to repent or find redemption. The horses on my carousel face to the left, in the direction of the spiraling Inferno, but if the audience chooses to imagine the mechanism rotating, the horses will eventually turn right as they continue their clockwise journey. Similarly, as the halos, arches, circles, and light in my paintings become juxtaposed with the mundanity of the subjects, they transform those quiet non-moments into divinity, and the prisoners of my narratives are granted redemption.
This body of work began as a tragedy, but it has the potential to become a comedy. And just as I wish for my loved ones to see the beauty that is within their souls, I hope that my divine scenes of nothingness can become a vehicle for others to redeem themselves in purgatory and indulge in the beauty that is inherent in every life.
—Written by Ho Jae Kim
Ho Jae Kim (b. 1993, Seoul, South Korea) received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 2016; he is currently based in New York City. Most recently, his work has been exhibited at Harper’s, New York, Los Angeles, and East Hampton (2023, 2022, and 2021); Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles (2023); Christie's, New York (2022 and 2020); Sotheby’s, New York (2022 and 2018); EXPO Chicago, online (2021); SPRING/BREAK Art Show, New York (2020); and K&P Gallery, New York (2019). His work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Forbes, and Artsy, among other publications.
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