Today’s Yesterday, Yesterday’s Tomorrow: New Works by Sung Hwa Kim

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Harper’s, NYC // January 04, 2024 – February 17, 2024

Harper’s is pleased to announce Today’s Yesterday, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, Brooklyn-based artist Sung Hwa Kim’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The presentation features new paintings by Kim and will be on view at Harper’s Chelsea through February 17, 2024. 

Throughout art history, depictions of inanimate subjects have distinguished the tradition of the still-life: flowers, glassware, fruit, and other remnants of life tend to be displayed within poised arrangements among static compositions. In Today’s Yesterday, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, however, Kim troubles the meaning of the genre. The artist’s dynamic yet introspective works incorporate motion and unravel linear time across otherwise fixed visual planes.

Kim uses the moon jar as a motif to demarcate the passage of time in his still life paintings. The artist fills the traditional white porcelain vessel, widely regarded as a national symbol in Korea, with divine landscapes. Waterfront sunsets and lush groves radiate from the center of many compositions. The jars with blooming microcosms tend to be staged near windows within traditional domestic spaces. These windows invite viewers to study vistas of their own that deviate temporally and topographically from those within the vessels.

Such is the case in Still Life with Moon Jar and Clock. Here, a luminous vase holding a lone, ashen rose is positioned in front of a window, flush with red light. Outside, a vibrant sunset dawns over a sleepy cityscape. Meanwhile, within the vessel, Kim transports us further into the night as a deep indigo moon illuminates a figure standing in a field. Ultimately, a gleaming petal, which falls from the rose that dwells in the moon jar, tethers the two worlds together, reminding viewers of the interconnectivity between the dead, the living, and all that resides in between.

Glimmering petals reappear as signifiers of the afterlife in Still Life with Jar and Stars and in Still Life with Jar, Glass of Wine and Wine Bottle, among other works. In the former, incandescent remnants of a desiccated floral arrangement are like sparks of renewal within the nocturnal scene that surrounds the vase. Utopia awaits within the jar: a serene blue sky nurtures a verdant pasture, teeming with sprightly orange buds. In the latter, these leaves descend onto a table bearing a wine bottle and glass. A stormy evening threatens the quiet setting beyond the window, yet another pristine day is promised within the vessel.

Today’s Yesterday, Yesterday’s Tomorrow is rife with these divergent scenes that coexist in fragments across shared canvases. Darkness repeatedly confronts daylight; overcast skies greet brilliant stretches of blue. In juxtaposing disparate geographies, temporalities, and climates, Kim reminds onlookers of the infinite encounters that occur within every waking moment. From these concurrences, the artist invites observers to reflect on the abundant realities that define the material world and the imperceptible sphere of cosmology.

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