Focusing on key works and archives donated by the bereaved to MMCA in 2014, Bahc Yiso: Memos and Memories sheds new light on the art world of Bahc Yiso. The archives consist of 21 volumes of the artist’s notes (1984-2003), drawings, teaching materials, exhibition data, articles, and even jazz tapes recorded and edited by the artist, a jazz enthusiast.
The exhibition has two axes that intersect. One axis is arranged along the flow of time forming a visual representation of a chronology of Bahc’s artistic life. It reconstructs over twenty years of his New York and Seoul Periods, featuring major works, drawings, archives and more. Walking through and viewing the exhibition, audiences can intuit the changes in his artistic practice and ideas.
The other axis, cutting across the first, has three phases in layers. The artist’s notes which served as the seed of his art, are at the heart of the exhibition like a platform. In the second phase, visitors are introduced to archives including drawings. The last phase presents actual works by Bahc. The exhibition is structured in such a way that the first phase is encompassed within the second, which is, in turn, within the third. This construction of multiple layers offers the viewer a rare opportunity to witness directly the process whereby ideas grow to produce their fruits, the works of art.
At the center of the archives are twenty-one volumes of Bahc’s notes which he kept like a diary. They contain, in some detail, all of the processes involved in his art making for around twenty years starting in 1984, the year of his graduation at the Pratt Institute in New York. These sketches of ideas, traces of fragmentary thoughts, schedules and memos are important materials which vividly describe the artist’s concerns in different periods.
From the mid-to-late 1990s when his Seoul Period began, Bahc’s practice shifted from the painting centered to concentrating more on three dimensional work and installation. Many of the drawings of installations in this exhibition produced in this period. Each drawing has such a high quality of finish that it can be seen as a complete work of art rather than a rough sketch to be further developed. For the artist, drawings are analogue simulations. He examined the effect of exhibition depending on environments and elaborated his concepts through drawing his thoughts. These drawings which contain detailed information and instructions are exquisite and beautiful.
These records of Bahc’s activities in New York including his organization of an art space ‘Minor Injury’ as well as other traces of his engagement in the SEORO Korean Cultural Network, publications and study clubs, all are important in showing the extent of his efforts behind the scenes of the glamorous exhibitions. Materials relevant to his teaching at SADI and Korea National University of Arts after his return to Korea allow us to imagine which alternative models for art education he thought about.
Jazz library and <Honesty>
Bahc edited and produced about two hundred Jazz tapes on his own. He often said
“I am only going to listen to Jazz from now on,” his love for Jazz was extraordinary. He translated Billy Joel’s 'Honesty' into Korean and sang it. The words perfectly reflecting his attitude toward life linger on deep within us.
The artistic activities of Bahc Yiso are divided into two periods: the New York Period starting in 1982 when he went to the USA to study and the Seoul Period from 1995, the year of his return to Korea. After graduating from Pratt Institute, he was involved in social activities alongside a passionate art practice under the name Bahc Mo. He founded an alternative art space ‘Minor Injury’ in Brooklyn, and caught the attention of the New York art world as a young leader raising a voice for neglected immigrants and minorities. He was also enthusiastic about publication and played a pivotal role in introducing Korean art to audiences in New York.
After returning to Korea in 1995, he changed his name to Bahc Yiso and took up a position as a professor at SADI (Samsung Art & Design Institute) which had recently opened. He devoted his efforts to establish a new way of teaching art as well as creating works. He presented his works in a number of major national and international exhibitions including Gwangju Biennale (1997) and Yokohama Triennale (2001). In 2002, he won the Hermès Korea Missulsang and was participated in the Korean Pavilion at Venice Biennale as a representative artist of Korea. However, just when he was attracting attention from the art world in Korea and overseas, he suddenly passed away from cardiac arrest in 2004, leaving behind much grief and sorrow. After his death, his retrospective exhibitions were held at Rodin Gallery in 2006 and Art Sonje Center in 2011 and 2014. This exhibition is the first solo show of Bahc’s at MMCA.