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A step toward a larger goal

The Korean American Museum moves closer to permanence as it opens a new space with 'Dreams & Reality.'

October 14, 2003|Suzanne Muchnic | Times Staff Writer

The Korean American Museum's new exhibition space is only a clean, well-lighted room on the fourth floor of an office building in Koreatown. But the 1,500-square-foot gallery is an important step in a plan to establish a permanent showcase for the Korean American community, says architect Ki Suh Park, who heads the museum's board of directors.

Founded in 1991, the museum got its start by presenting exhibitions and other programs in temporary facilities. The new gallery -- in the KOA Center at Wilshire Boulevard and Harvard Avenue -- will provide an ongoing forum for Korean American art. A larger space in another mid-Wilshire building, expected to open next spring, will display a permanent exhibition about Korean immigration to Southern California.

The museum launched the gallery over the weekend with "Dreams & Reality: Korean American Contemporary Art Celebrating 100 Years of Korean Immigration to the U.S." With paintings, sculptures and graphic works by 16 artists, it's drawn from an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution's Asian Pacific American Program and presented last summer in Washington, D.C.

"This is about one-fourth the size of the original show," says Park, who renovated the gallery and helped the curators with the installation. "We took as many works as we could and, in some cases, substituted smaller pieces."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday October 15, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Museum official -- In some editions of Tuesday's Calendar, a photo caption and other display type incorrectly identified Ki Suh Park as director of the Korean American Museum. He is chairman of the museum's board of directors.

The L.A. edition encompasses a wide range of media and sensibilities, from Chunghi Choo's voluptuous red "Flower Vessel," fashioned of electroformed copper and painted with acrylic, to B.G. Muhn's pale mixed-media sculpture, depicting a bundle of human bodies emerging from a large fish. Komelia Hongja Okim is represented by a 4-foot-tall copper female figure with a mass of wiry hair; Sook Jin Jo, by an abstract wood assemblage.

In the past, young Korean Americans tended to pursue professions such as law and medicine, says Park, who immigrated 50 years ago and is the design and managing partner of Gruen Associates. But now that Korean Americans are celebrating the centennial of their ancestors' arrival, many of them are involved in the arts, he says, and the museum will acknowledge that.

Sculptor Yoonchung Park Kim, who teaches at San Diego City College, is the only Southern California artist in the inaugural exhibition, but future shows will concentrate on local talent.

Park and his fellow board members are working with cultural leaders in L.A.'s Japanese American and Jewish communities to learn from their experiences. But acquiring a building to house all the Korean American Museum's programs is still a dream.

"We know we have a long, uphill effort," Park says. "But we have high hopes. We just have to start small and build on them."

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