Kim Westfall

Splendid Bitch

January 23–March 7, 2020 West Gallery
Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (Two large tapestries installed in a room. Between them is the opening to an adjacent room where a third large tapestry is installed. All three tapestries depict absurd cartoon images of female figures in bold colors. In the work to the left, titled Another Mother (I Was Born to Love You), a young woman submerged in a pool of milk up to her waist breastfeeds a blue lamb like creature.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (Grilled (Self-portrait) installed on a wall. The piece depicts a caricature of the artist, arms and legs extended and hair in a long braid, surrounded by flames. The figure and flames are cut by black horizontal lines that resemble a grill, specifically the type often found at Korean BBQ restaurants.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. () A room with two walls, with one piece on each wall. Installed on the left wall is a triptych Gumiho Reaper (RIP Yu Gwan Sun + Na Hye Sok). Installed on the back wall is Forever Young, in which a black and white cartoon rendering of a woman's torso, legs and high heels float in water, connected at the waist to its own reflection. From between the legs comes an endless procession of not quite human-like creatures, that eventually sink back into the water and enter the body of the reflection. According to the artist, the image depicts “two bodies with reproductive organs stitched together from their waists down, pumping out innocent babies in an endless cycle.”)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (A room with two walls, with one piece on each wall. The piece installed on the back wall, Forever Young, depicts “two bodies with reproductive organs stitched together from their waists down, pumping out innocent babies in an endless cycle” against a purple background. The piece on the right wall, All You Can Ever Know is I've Never Been to Me, depicts the artist flying in a yellow, anthropomorphized airplane above the sea.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (All You Can Ever Know is I’ve Never Been to Me installed on a wall.  The tapestry depicts a caricature of the the artist merging into an anthropomorphized airplane that is flying above a blue sea. The figure and the plane have large open months, like they are singing or screaming.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (The large triptych Gumiho Reaper (RIP Yu Gwan Sun + Na Hye Sok), each panel created with red, yellow, blue and white yarn, installed on a wall. The first panel, memorializing You Gwan Sun, the March 1st Movement activist, depicts an ExonMobile oil barrel surrounded by a bamboo fence, a decorative gate and police tape. The middle panel, which the artist has described as “a revenge fantasy tank or vehicle with Gumiho hood ornament” depicts a pagoda, a fox like creature and a "Dekotora Truck" merging into a powerful monster. The final panel depicts a colorless body bag slumped on the ground, surrounded by the same bamboo fence, decorative gate and police tape, and represents Na Hye Sok, the woman known as Korea’s first feminist.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020

Press Release

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.

For further information, contact: info@whitecolumns.org

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (Two large tapestries installed in a room. Between them is the opening to an adjacent room where a third large tapestry is installed. All three tapestries depict absurd cartoon images of female figures in bold colors. In the work to the left, titled Another Mother (I Was Born to Love You), a young woman submerged in a pool of milk up to her waist breastfeeds a blue lamb like creature.)
Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (Grilled (Self-portrait) installed on a wall. The piece depicts a caricature of the artist, arms and legs extended and hair in a long braid, surrounded by flames. The figure and flames are cut by black horizontal lines that resemble a grill, specifically the type often found at Korean BBQ restaurants.)
Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. () A room with two walls, with one piece on each wall. Installed on the left wall is a triptych Gumiho Reaper (RIP Yu Gwan Sun + Na Hye Sok). Installed on the back wall is Forever Young, in which a black and white cartoon rendering of a woman's torso, legs and high heels float in water, connected at the waist to its own reflection. From between the legs comes an endless procession of not quite human-like creatures, that eventually sink back into the water and enter the body of the reflection. According to the artist, the image depicts “two bodies with reproductive organs stitched together from their waists down, pumping out innocent babies in an endless cycle.”)
Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (A room with two walls, with one piece on each wall. The piece installed on the back wall, Forever Young, depicts “two bodies with reproductive organs stitched together from their waists down, pumping out innocent babies in an endless cycle” against a purple background. The piece on the right wall, All You Can Ever Know is I've Never Been to Me, depicts the artist flying in a yellow, anthropomorphized airplane above the sea.)
Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (All You Can Ever Know is I’ve Never Been to Me installed on a wall.  The tapestry depicts a caricature of the the artist merging into an anthropomorphized airplane that is flying above a blue sea. The figure and the plane have large open months, like they are singing or screaming.)
Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (The large triptych Gumiho Reaper (RIP Yu Gwan Sun + Na Hye Sok), each panel created with red, yellow, blue and white yarn, installed on a wall. The first panel, memorializing You Gwan Sun, the March 1st Movement activist, depicts an ExonMobile oil barrel surrounded by a bamboo fence, a decorative gate and police tape. The middle panel, which the artist has described as “a revenge fantasy tank or vehicle with Gumiho hood ornament” depicts a pagoda, a fox like creature and a "Dekotora Truck" merging into a powerful monster. The final panel depicts a colorless body bag slumped on the ground, surrounded by the same bamboo fence, decorative gate and police tape, and represents Na Hye Sok, the woman known as Korea’s first feminist.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (Two large tapestries installed in a room. Between them is the opening to an adjacent room where a third large tapestry is installed. All three tapestries depict absurd cartoon images of female figures in bold colors. In the work to the left, titled Another Mother (I Was Born to Love You), a young woman submerged in a pool of milk up to her waist breastfeeds a blue lamb like creature.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (Grilled (Self-portrait) installed on a wall. The piece depicts a caricature of the artist, arms and legs extended and hair in a long braid, surrounded by flames. The figure and flames are cut by black horizontal lines that resemble a grill, specifically the type often found at Korean BBQ restaurants.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (A room with two walls, with one piece on each wall. Installed on the left wall is the triptych Gumiho Reaper (RIP Yu Gwan Sun + Na Hye Sok). Installed on the back wall is Forever Youngin which a black and white cartoon rendering of a woman’s torso, legs and high heels float in water, connected at the waist to its own reflection. From between the legs comes an endless procession of not quite human-like creatures, that eventually sink back into the water and enter the body of the reflection. According to the artist, the image depicts “two bodies with reproductive organs stitched together from their waists down, pumping out innocent babies in an endless cycle.”)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (A room with two walls. Forever Young is installed on the back wall. The piece All You Can Ever Know is I’ve Never Been to Me is installed on the right wall.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (All You Can Ever Know is I’ve Never Been to Me installed on a wall.  The tapestry depicts a caricature of the the artist merging into an anthropomorphized airplane that is flying above a blue sea. The figure and the plane have large open months, like they are singing or screaming.)

Kim Westfall, installation view, 2020. (The large triptych Gumiho Reaper (RIP Yu Gwan Sun + Na Hye Sok), each panel created with red, yellow, blue and white yarn, installed on a wall. The first panel, memorializing You Gwan Sun, the March 1st Movement activist, depicts an ExonMobile oil barrel surrounded by a bamboo fence, a decorative gate and police tape. The middle panel, which the artist has described as “a revenge fantasy tank or vehicle with Gumiho hood ornament” depicts a pagoda, a fox like creature and a “Dekotora Truck” merging into a powerful monster. The final panel depicts a colorless body bag slumped on the ground, surrounded by the same bamboo fence, decorative gate and police tape, and represents Na Hye Sok, the woman known as Korea’s first feminist.)