Incarnation: Hammond Museum, North Salem, NY

nam_june_paik.jpgContemporary art from Asia seems to be increasingly abundant everywhere you look, from our leading museums to our most progressive galleries. So it is no wonder that more and more curators are scrambling to shed light on the differences and the distinctions from country to country. And it is hard to say where influences originate, and it is even harder to say what came first. But I do see an intriguing amount of crossover from American artists to Asian concepts and esthetics, and vice versa in Incarnation, a stellar show curated by Inhee Iris Moon.

And from what I understand from Ms. Moon, this is just a piece of a pie that is far more diverse and complicated. With all that said, I am thoroughly impressed by all the work in the exhibition, especially with respect to the curator's emphasis on art that reveals great clarity of vision, an emphasis on craft, and the indication of the larger, more wholly spiritual picture.

Chong Gon Byun offers two works that play with western culture. In "A Kiss from God" (2007), a Pre-Raphaelite-style rendition of a young priest kissing a beautiful young nun with the Eiffel tower as a backdrop is both scandalous and witty. And if one needs to conceal this work for some reason, the artist surrounds it in an old metal frame that has a coat hook at the top, which affords any embarrassed individual the chance to use his/her coat to cover the image. Byun also created the large and impressive rendering of Native Americans in two long rows of portraits. Here we see a vintage palette, done to replicate an aged sepia-toned photograph, with the chief, front and center, proudly holding an oversized bottle of Chanel #5. The implications are endless.

Nikki S. Lee breaks down ethnic and cultural barriers in her three c-print photographs. By joining in on the group portraits, Lee assumes the identity of a Latin, a young punk, and a streetwise gangster forcing viewers to reevaluate the assumed imperviousness of these stereotypes.

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Working in assemblage with thousands of like objects are two artists: Ran Hwang and Junho Lee. Hwang creates the silhouette of what one could assume to be a performance artist or dancer in repose in "Rest" (1995) by assembling a larger-than-life-sized image out of steel pins and buttons that are directly set into the wall. Many of the buttons and pins have fallen to the floor, suggesting a state of meditative rest or release. On the other hand, Lee (image right) employs thousands of seal stamps that he creates himself with a laser engraving machine. These are of the type used as signatures for things like important documents or letters. He then takes these 2,000 or more, smaller than dime sized objects and sets them inside the oval voids of rococo gold leafed frames. By doing this, the artist turns the many individuals represented by the seals into one united soul. A quietly elegant and powerful series.

Duck Hyun Cho dazzles with a pencil drawing of two young women (sisters) who are joined at the hip by one long, overflowing white dress called "Hoe Wha 6" (2006). And like "Rest," "Hoe Wha 6" makes a connection to something larger, whether it be the earth or the collective consciousness.

The exhibitions two photographers are are as varied as they are profound. Atta Kim places young nude men and women in tight quarters - clear, plexiglas, barely big enough boxes - to tell the tale. A story that seems to force a renewed connection of humans to nature, and one another, while stressing a disinterest in individual identity or purpose. Memorable work.

Bohnchang Koo points the camera toward beautifully aged and crafted vases that seem to break through the utilitarian mold as keepers of history and knowledge instead of wine or water.

The lone video artist, Jaye Rhee, offers two works which focus on repetitive actions, meditation and transforming creativity. Kwang Young Chun¹s wondrous and well known relief works also reveals the power of repetitive actions in his stellar work "Aggregation #7," a mesmerizing array of geometric shapes comprised of Korean mulberry paper that swirls in patterns that suggestion creation.

Nam June Paik is also here, represented by "Videochandelier" (1991) (above left), a work never publicly exhibited in the U.S. before, which dominates the space above the others with fantastical shapes, familiar forms and dazzling video patterns. – D. Dominick Lombardi

Incarnation at the Hammond Museum, 28 Deveau Road, North Salem, N.Y. 10560. Through September 8th.

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D. Dominick Lombardi is an artist with representation in Kasia Kay Art Projects and Lisa Boyle Gallery in Chicago, and Van Brunt Gallery in Beacon, NY; a writer with Sculpture, DART, & Magazine and NYARTS; and an independent curator.

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