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Korean Cultural Center’s Artist of the Year Presents Dreamlike Glass Installations

By Jonas Meuleman

Imagine a room that has an oceanic atmosphere so natural that you can almost hear the sea and waves breaking against the shore.

This is the immersive effect of “Resonance,” an exhibition by artist Jubee Lee featuring large glass installations and sculptures currently running at the Korean Cultural Center. Using sound, light and visual elements such as layered, image-embedded glass, Lee invites the audience to step into her dreamlike reverie to explore her personal memories while inspiring visitors to slow down and reflect on their own experiences.

Lee — who was dubbed the Korean Cultural Center’s 2019 artist of the year — was born in the seaside city of Busan, South Korea, but has spent many years in the U.S. She went to Southern Illinois University for her bachelor’s degree in fine arts studying glass and obtained her master’s degree from the Craft/Materials Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Resonance Jubee Lee
One big wave of kiwa, entirely made up of recycled glass, takes months to produce and involves some of glass art's sophisticated methods: fusing, slumping, enameling, sandblasting, cold working and woodworking. Photos: Korean Cultural Institute

For “Resonance,” Lee was particularly inspired by water. She considers it to be the most powerful of earth’s elements and loves to create oceanic landscapes.

What is unique about her work in this gallery is her use of kiwa, or traditional Korean roof tiles. The choice of using recycled glass to produce the repeating kiwa pattern is no coincidence.

“During my childhood, me and my family often took trips to different regions and provinces of South Korea, forever coloring my memory with impressions of those natural landscapes. There was a big Korean Buddhist temple in my town,” Lee recalled. “Looking at those groupings of roofs from the mountain, I felt the ‘resonance’ of waves. When contemplating the rooftops, I could let my imagination run free. This intuitive sense of the form and color of the natural world has continued to influence the development of my artwork.”

Utilizing traditional glass techniques such as sandblasting, engraving and slumping (a kiln-forming process that uses heat and gravity to transform sheet glass into the shape of a mold), Lee creates an ethereal, immersive experience for the audience.

After the Big Wind Stops I See Gentle Waves
Contemplation and meditation are central in this part of the exhibition, where the tranquility of the art work allows for inner reflection.

One of her installations, called “After the Big Wind Stops, I See Gentle Waves,” inspires such inner reflection. The room surrounding the piece is completely dark. Light projections emanate through 136 black-and-white kiln-formed glass panels on woodwork, creating waves of kiwa. In front of the artwork, a pillow is placed so that visitors can sit undisturbed and meditate while absorbing the tranquility of the piece.

A different experience can be found in another part of the gallery as visitors face the darkness of the room. Here, the oceanic theme of the exhibition is more apparent because of the use of light and blue colors that recreate a seaside landscape.

The use of kiwa is more prevalent here. The largest work, titled “Resonance,” resembles one big wave made out of kiwa, which are themselves produced by recycled glass. Lee explained that the process of making such a piece takes months and involves the multiple steps often used in glass art: fusing, slumping, enameling, sandblasting, cold working and woodworking.

Kiwa art Jubee Lee
Visitors take a close look at some of the glass panels containing detailed kiwa, which are not visible from a distance.

Glass panel works on the other side of the room provide the ultimate expression of kiwa in the collection. If you look at some of these pieces from a distance, you may only see waves in different shades of blue. Upon closer inspection, however, you can clearly see that the undulating waves are in fact Korean roof tiles.

In addition to expressing her own personal memories, Lee said she wants her exhibition to give visitors a “sensual experience. By being given the opportunity to slow down a bit in the show, hopefully the viewers can feel the true moment of pause and are able to rest, even if it’s only for a few minutes in a busy day.”

“Resonance” runs until Nov. 29 at the Korean Cultural Center, 2370 Massachusetts Ave., NW. For more information, please visit www.KoreaCultureDC.org.

Jonas Meuleman is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.



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