By Nina Azzarello
representing a landmark moment for korea’s most significant sculptural designer, byung hoon choi will present 11 monumental benches, chiseled from basalt stone for his first solo-exhibition in the united states, at friedman benda gallery, new york. formed by organic shapes and geometry found in the natural world, each object-cum-artwork is at the same time raw, as it is refined. carved from vast expanses of igneous rock, the stone benches set rough beside smooth, old against new, seamlessly integrating folded, torn and arched pure black basalt with more crude rock formations.
the benches balance materialism with lyricism and spirituality, alluding to daoist and zen notions of journeys through nature to the self and the awakening of dormant ideas. though references to korean ancestry are abundant, influence for the ‘in one stroke’ exhibition stems from varying origins, for example, the dolmens (or ancient megalithic tombs) as well as the mountains found in the gangwon-do and ganghwa provinces where choi grew up and now works, both of which he pays homage to in the series. additionally, the organic forms indicate an a tribute to 20th century sculptors such as henry moore, barbara hepworth, and isamu noguchi, while the celebration of material echoes the modernism of finnish architect alvar aalto, with whom choi feels an affinity.
about byung hoon choi
a pioneer of modern korean craft, byung hoon choi’s work combines aesthetics and functionality. working with numerous natural materials — wood, clay, granite and natural stone — choi creates minimal furniture that can be seen as both object and art. choi’s work is held in numerous collections throughout korea, including the national museum of contemporary art and the korean culture and art foundation; abroad his work can be seen in the permanent collection of the vitra design museum and the metropolitan museum of art. he is currently a professor at the college of fine arts at hongik university in seoul.