Solo Show by Visual Arts Student Youngmin Park at Make Room Gallery

Mădălina Telea Borteș
April 12, 2024

Visual Arts student Youngmin Park recently presented fifteen works on paper, canvas, and wood at the prestigious Make Room Gallery in Los Angeles California. Park’s solo show, Allegory of Fragility, which ran from February 27 to March 29, 2024, took as its start “recurring elements, such as figures, dogs, and birds, drawn from the artist’s memories.” These elements, which have appeared in Park’s works for several years, formed an essay on memory and its undercurrent: care. 

“Park's creative inspiration arises from her early years as the youngest member of an expansive family unit,” the Gallery’s press release notes. “Growing up amidst three generations all residing under one roof, which included seven aunts and numerous dogs and cats, she became fully immersed in the intricate power dynamics found within human and animal relationships.”

watercolor painting, brown frame, blade and olive

Park’s engagement with power dynamics is wholehearted, however—steeped in intricate and generous contemplation instead of an oft-utilized critical approach. Appropriately, Make Room Gallery drew attention to the fact that “Park…embraces the delicate nature of perception and memory, seamlessly integrating them into the multiple layers of her artistic approach.” 

When speaking to the conceptual approach unifying these works—several are presented in a series of unfolding narratives—Park explained that “multiple frames highlight the unevenness of how we take in the world’s stories by continuing and discontinuing the images. And in that, recurring elements like humans, dogs, birds morph in different combinations and situations to add a puzzling production—extending the narrative and at the same time contributing to the play of confusion. Thereby, the dog becomes the human, the ball becomes the sun, and the bird becomes the plane."⁠

panels of oil paintings

Some of the paintings in the show are large—for instance, ...and went astray, (oil on linen, 2024) is 66” x 68,”—while others are incredibly small. Slicing Olive #1 (2024, 5½” x 6”), a watercolor work depicting, indeed, the thin slicing of an olive, is perhaps 1 ½” x 2” on its own, roughly a third of the size of the custom wooden frame that surrounds it. All of the works, regardless of medium or style, however, are tightly packed with careful details. There are innumerable layers of underpaint, color, and brushstrokes. In each of the works on view, Park stretches what paint itself (and a brush) can do. In Chance, faith, blank (52” x 84,” oil on linen, 2023), for instance, a warm-toned painting where three backsides, two partially clothed, one nude, are standing before a delicately rendered natural scene in the far horizon, Park shows how paint can shimmer, how a firm turn of a wide brush can bend paint on a flat surface to create the wide flank of a back or a thigh. Yet, Park’s discourse is hardly limited to paint or craft itself. In Chance, faith, blank, for example, one also sees a small mosquito hovering just below one of the figures’ elbow, its bulbous red eyes rendered as precisely as anything else in the frame. The mosquito, just like the dogs leaping and hurtling themselves in front of the figures’ knees, flicks into view only after some time spent gazing at this painting, serving as a testament to Park’s invitation to linger and contemplate the many layers that make up any sliver of experience. 

Youngmin Park (b. 1997, Seoul) lives and works in New York. She received her BFA from Korea National University of Arts. Her work stems from her childhood experience as being the youngest in a large family, placed in the middle of human dynamic and animal dynamic. This personal reminisce is stretched to the exploration of the unstoppable and competitive struggle in the vertical power structure through different forms of life. Through the tense relationship between the everyday beings of many kinds, both hierarchy and uncertainty are built in the obscurely flattened world.