Donghoon Rhee: Woman

Various Small Fires is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Korean artist Donghoon Rhee at its "and Milk" project space. The presentation of new wooden sculptures and paintings marks the artist’s international debut and first show with the gallery. Rhee’s practice mainly revolves around capturing gestural movement by chiseling and painting voluminous wooden sculptures. As a way of re-interpreting the sculptures, he transposes his subject matter of plants, animals and human figures onto the canvas. Rhee’s earlier sculptures of flowers in vases were carved in wood after studying the interesting configurations of each petal and leaf. Using Korean red pine, elm, birch and ginkgo trees, the stiffness found in the floral sculptures were transposed onto the canvas by using wide brushes to accentuate its ruggedness. 


Exploring possibilities of embodying movement to his immobile sculptures, the artist expands the breadth of his subject to the dance moves of female K-pop idols. By using an electric saw, Rhee illustrates swift synchronized dance gestures of stunning K-pop stars such as Hyein from NewJeans and Winter from Aespa. Like in Hype Boy, Hyein’s swaying ponytail, detailed ornaments of her daisy-patterned blue varsity jacket, and the cheeky dance sequences are all expressed within the artwork. 


The title of his first international show stems from Willem de Kooning’s Women series. On the design board at the artist’s studio, printed images of De Kooning’s Woman I (1950-1953) and Women III (1953) are juxtaposed with cut-outs of Hyein dancing from various angles. The antipodal imagery of the two are merged into one work with an intriguing twist; de Kooning’s rough brushstrokes are re-invented in the jagged cuts of the uneven wooden surface while the sculpture as a whole is an amalgamation of Hyein’s feminine gestures.


Rhee often finds himself using sculptural methods while painting and vice versa. This is evident in his process of taking panoramic photographs of the finished sculpture, and transplanting the spread-out composition of the photographs onto the surface of an unprimed canvas. Perceiving both methods of paintings and sculpture as a way to review and reflect one another, Rhee’s works create a visual language of the symbiotic relationship between painting and sculpture, and movement and stillness. 




Donghoon Rhee's (b. 1991, Singapore, lives and works in Seoul, South Korea) sculptural practice blossomed from his earlier investigation on traditional still life paintings to capturing bodily movement of dancing female K-pop stars onto chiseled raw trunks of wood. Rhee combines both painting and sculptural elements into his hand-painted wooden sculptures and works on canvas. He received a BFA in painting from Kyung Hee University and an MFA at the Seoul National University of Science and Technology. Rhee presented one and two person exhibitions at White Noise, Seoul; DrawingRoom, Seoul and Gallery SP, Seoul. The artist has been a part of group exhibitions held at Seoul Museum of Art; Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art; Ilmin Museum of Art, Seoul; Ulsan Art Museum; SAGA, Seoul; Hyundai Card Storage, Seoul; and Daelim Museum, Seoul. His work is in the permanent collections of Jeju Museum of Contemporary Art and Ulsan Art Museum.