“What does it mean for an artist of color to be making abstract paintings in the 21st century?” Byron Kim asks. In his probing of classic modernism, discordant enough to reinvigorate the genre, he risks narrative, sentiment, personal associations, and the making of luscious objects. A pale green monochromatic canvas stealthily alludes to an 11th century Korean ceramic glaze. Tenderly marrying meaning and form, a horizontally striped painting represents the colors seen as he panned from his son’s head to his sneakers. What may appear, at first glance, to be neutral territory might be a minefield. A red, yellow, and blue triptych is also a coded salute to his father, who suffered under the Japanese occupation of Korea.

Kim’s intense and close focus has yielded a wide-ranging body of work and his serial pictures invite a particular intimacy for both viewer and artist. One of his best known works, Synecdoche, is a vast grid composed of several hundred small abstract monochrome paintings ranging from deep brown to pale pink; it is as much a group portrait, depicting the skin tone of friends, acquaintances and willing-to-be-painted strangers’ arms, as it is pure abstraction. Whether he is experimenting with fractioning the world through photography, or making a small painting of the sky, with handwritten diary entry, as he has nearly every Sunday for the past seven years, Kim distills and meditates upon how the part, the partial and the small can become a radiant, even heartbreaking whole.



I’ve sought the challenge of combining the dominant modes of the last century of art—abstraction, (retrograde, hopelessly idealistic), and conceptualism—to make paintings that comment on culture in a personal and often subtle way. I am interested in making abstraction and abstract painting relevant today, and doing so in a way that might subvert our usual ways of perceiving, that will open us up, and make us feel how we feel when we remember to look up into the sky or look deeply into a child’s eyes.

questions to consider
press release

Born in La Jolla, California, 1961
Lives in Brooklyn, NY

1986: Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
1983: Yale University, B.A.

Solo Exhibitions:
2008 Irwin’s Disc, The U.N. Building, and Other Paintings, Max Protetch Gallery, New York
2005 Oddly Flowing, Max Protetch Gallery, New York
2004 Threshold, a traveling exhibition originating at the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA
1999 Whitney Phillip Morris: wall drawings by Byron Kim, Whitney Museum of American Art at Phillip Morris, New York
1996 Grey-Green, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
1994 Matrix 125, Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford

Group Exhibitions:
2008 Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
2000 Kwangju Biennale, Kwangju, Korea
1993 Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Skin Deep, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York

Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA
Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.
Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA
Norton Family Collection, Santa Monica, CA
Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, CT
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA

2002 UCROSS, Cal Arts Alpert Residency, Wyoming
1998 Sirius Arts Centre, Residency Programme, County Cork, Ireland
1997 Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant
1995 National Endowment for the Arts Awardk
1994 New York Foundation for the Arts Grant Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award
1993 The Louise Nevelson Award in Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY
1991 Diverse Forms Artists' Projects Grant funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Jerome Foundation
1990 Artist-in-Residence Grant, New York State Council on the Arts

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