Korean Cultural Center New York presents a retrospective “John Pai: Eternal Moment” in the gallery of its new building

Korean Cultural Center New York presents a retrospective “John Pai: Eternal Moment” in the gallery of its new building

NEW YORK, Feb. 25, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The Korean Cultural Center New York (KCCNY), a branch of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Korea, is honored to present “John Pai: Eternal Moment,” a retrospective exhibition at the gallery of its new building located at 122 East 32nd Street in New York City between March 6 and April 18, 2024.

John Pai stands as a seminal figure in the tapestry of Korean arts in New York, whose life and works reflect the enduring spirit of innovation, true artistry, and the rich narrative of Korean history. Through decades of tumultuous history, Pai’s artistic journey has not only contributed significantly to the New York art scene but also served as a bridge between the cultures, highlighting the resilience, creativity, and unique perspective of Korean artists in the global diaspora.

As KCCNY opens its doors to a new chapter with its new building, it is fitting that John Pai’s works inaugurate this space, symbolizing a bridge between past and future, tradition and the contemporary, and connecting diverse cultures through the universal language of art.

Celebrating this legacy, the retrospective “John Pai: Eternal Moment,” is an exploration of Pai’s contributions to the fabric of art history in New York, and honoring his role in shaping the identity and perception of Korean artistry on the international stage.

This retrospective showcases Pai’s early sculptures influenced by Constructivism from the early 1960s, as well as major works, drawings, and paintings, in chronological order. The exhibition features his pieces varying in size, texture, and color, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of John Pai’s artistic realm. Additionally, his oral history interviewed by historian Leyla Vural in the summer of 2021 is unveiled for the first time, offering meaningful insight into the life and art of John Pai.

John Pai’s Artistic Journey with Steel

From the early 1960s to the present, all of Pai’s sculptures have been meticulously welded together by hand using only steel. Among various materials, Pai chose steel for its humility over any other metal, its ready availability, and its flexibility and adaptability between the solid and liquid states. The selection of materials, crafting technique, and the resulting artworks encapsulate John Pai himself, embodying the artist’s resilient spirit and conscientious nature.

He analyzes the fundamentals of all objects and the principles of nature into basic units of ‘dots’ and ‘lines’ and organically combines them. These conceptual and creative methodologies stand in stark contrast to traditional sculpting techniques that involve chiseling stone or wood or utilizing casting methods. Just as a classical music composer creates rhythm and harmony by drawing notes on a staff with improvisation, Pai creates his artworks by connecting steel wires unit by unit, moving between consciousness and unconsciousness.

“Working is like a private ritual. It brings me back to the idea of reaching a communion with a sense of silence, finding my way within and without it. I have no preconceived idea when I start working. I work and react to what I’ve done. I become comfortable with silence.” –John Pai

Life as a Korean diaspora artist

John Pai was born in Seoul in 1937 as the son of an independence activist during the Japanese occupation. He spent his early childhood in Seoul and Ilsan for about 11 years until he moved to the United States just before the Korean War in 1948. During these 11 years, Korea was liberated from Japanese rule in 1945 and was subsequently pushed to the brink of a civil war following the U.S. military government. Due to his parents’ deep involvement in Korea’s political turmoil at the time, young Pai could not be free from this maelstrom and found himself in the unfamiliar environment of America at the age of 11.

Although Pai remembers this period in fragmented episodes, his latent memories and consciousness from that time deeply influenced his life and artworks. He pondered deeply over choosing the path of an artist, which seemed unrelated to the practicalities of life, especially considering his grandfather and father, who were independence activists. After graduating, he accepted the professor position at Pratt Institute in 1965, becoming the youngest to do so, and dedicated himself to teaching students until 2000. His role as a pivotal figure among Korean artists in New York, such as Kim Whanki, Kim Tschang-Yeul, and Nam June Paik in the 1970s-90s, might also have been influenced by his sense of historical mission and indebtedness.

About the Korean Cultural Center New York

As a government institution inaugurated in 1979 under the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, KCCNY has hosted varied cultural and artistic activities, including exhibitions, concerts, and film/food festivals. KCCNY is opening its seven-story building, equipped with a brand-new gallery, theater, library, cooking studio, and conference rooms, near Manhattan’s Koreatown in February 2024. www.koreanculture.org

For program inquiries: please contact Dr. Bora Yoon, [email protected].

For press inquiries: please contact Mickey Hyun, [email protected]

SOURCE Korean Cultural Center New York

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