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Yuna Kim
Eye Lounge, Phoenix, Arizona
Review by Lynn Trimble

Yuna Kim, “Stacking, Collapsing, Stacking,” 2022, hand-drawn animation


Continuing through October 9, 2022


Black curtains create a portal into “Stacking, Collapsing, Stacking,” in which Yuna Kim shows short animations of drawings that reflect her everyday experiences during the age of Covid-19. Placed between the gallery entrance and the small white-box exhibition space, the dark fabric elegantly conveys the separations of time and space inherent in the pandemic experience, while also referencing historical antecedents such as the Black Plague. 


Passing through the curtains, one first encounters a small projection in a corner just above the gallery floor. Here, the shifting form of a human figure on a one-sided see-saw prefigures themes running throughout Kim’s work: identity, balance, nostalgia, anxiety, resilience, isolation, and relationships. The title of the exhibition refers to the myth of Sisyphus, which among other maters speaks to humanity’s struggle to find meaning amid absurdity. 


Thirty hand-drawn animations are projected primarily on three walls in rotation, coming and going like phantoms of memory and emotion. In some cases, Kim’s animations are accompanied by sound. A hand repeatedly stacks several rocks that topple down over and over again in the titular work. In “Gravity” an apple breaks apart, revealing the seeds at its core. A vase with two flowers that endlessly alternate between blooming and wilting in “Flower” alludes to the widespread death and loss experienced during the pandemic, as does a pair of hands playing the children’s game, “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” When one hand imitates a pair of scissors, it lops off a finger from the other hand. Here, Kim conveys the paradox of pandemic life with profound simplicity while illuminating its ambiguities.  


In one particularly thought-provoking drawing, titled “Prejudice,” Kim confronts the hateful rhetoric of those who blame China or Asian Americans for the spread of Covid-19 by showing a figure who’s been largely erased. Only their feet, hands, and a pair of dark round sunglasses appear in the drawing, reflecting the historic erasure of Asian Americans and the violence that continues to be committed against them. 


Some works address specific Covid-19 practices, such as social distancing. In “Ducky,” four rubber ducks alternate between coming together and moving apart. For “Laundry,” Kim groups together six washing machines. “See You” is a grouping of six squirrels, including one that repeatedly disappears and returns. Other works address more expansive concepts. “Blowing Candles,” for example, animates a birthday cake with a single candle that endlessly goes out and reignites. The image speaks to the way Covid-19 changed perceptions of time, altered timelines for reaching traditional milestones, and shifted the performance of various rituals. “Burning” shows a castle’s drawbridge opening to reveal a sudden outpouring of flames. Such imagery considers the ways our views of home have been transformed by the pandemic. 


Kim’s animations beautifully capture a depth and breadth of pandemic experiences. Drawings of a whirling ceiling fan (“Ceiling”) and a bird making an endless loop around its perch (“Rounding”) reflect the monotony wrought by social isolation. “Tug of War” shows people pulling together on a rope, but whomever they’ve banded together to defeat is cropped out of the composition, leaving us to wonder what they’re pulling against. “I saw you looking at me” depicts a window with horizontal blinds, alternating between the view looking in and the vastly different view looking out. 


“Stacking, Collapsing, Stacking” prompts us to reflect more deeply on our personal experience of the pandemic. At the same time, the wide variety among Kim’s animations awaken our empathy for those whose perspectives on pandemic life differ, often dramatically, from our own.

Eye Lounge

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