Splendid BitchJanuary 23–March 7, 2020 West Gallery
Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020
White Columns is proud to present Splendid Bitch, a solo exhibition by the Brooklyn-based artist Kim Westfall (b. 1986, Seoul, South Korea.) The six painting-like tapestries that comprise Splendid Bitch engage with and interrogate – often with disarming humor – complex questions surrounding identity and cultural politics.
Westfall’s subjects are rooted in the artist’s personal experience, and explore the persistent historical and ethical conflicts that relate to her own hybrid identity, as well as the still unresolved legacies surrounding the adoption of Korean children by American families in the decades following the Korean War.
Westfall’s tapestries are made with a simple machine tufting technique: a laborious yet ad-hoc craft process where evidence of the maker’s hand is ever-present. For Westfall “the yarn is the structure of the image”, the material ‘imperfections’ in each of her works are analogous to a painter’s brushstrokes. Exploring the complex realities of history, national identity, family, motherhood, feminine ideals and self-actualization, Westfall pushes both her subjects and her imagery to what she has described as “an absurd or melodramatic visual conclusion”, akin to the exaggerated ‘realism’ present in the work of filmmakers such as Douglas Sirk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
Through her privileging of materials with sentimental and hobbyist associations, Westfall establishes a critical tension with the often highly emotional, deeply political, and psychologically-charged subject matter of her work: Grilled (Self-portrait), 2016, is a gothic caricature of the artist splayed across a restaurant’s flaming barbeque-grill. Another Mother (I Was Born To Love You), 2019, depicts a woman breastfeeding a small dog, and the mural-scaled triptych Gumiho Reaper (RIP Yu Gwan Sun + Na Hye Sok), 2017, memorializes the absent figures of Yu Gwan Sun, the March 1st Movement activist and Na Hye Sok, the woman known as Korea’s first feminist.
Throughout Westfall employs humor – of both the slapstick and tragic-comic varieties – as both an entry point and as a form of catharsis, to create highly idiosyncratic and startlingly original works that are at once profoundly personal and political.
Kim Westfall (b. Seoul, South Korea 1986) received her BFA in 2008 from the Rhode Island School of Design. Previous exhibitions include Chibi USA, No Place Gallery, Columbus, OH (2018); Me, My Friends, & I, 1969 Gallery, New York, NY (2018); and Stop the World I Want to Get Off, Big Medium, Austin, TX (2014), among others. In 2018 Westfall was a recipient of a Korean Government Scholarship; and in 2017 she received a travel and study grant from the Jerome Foundation to research her personal history, cultural roots, and the legacy of the faith-based child adoption agency Holt International.
White Columns would like to thank Christina Leung for the initial introduction to Kim Westfall’s work.
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