Korean Artist Connects Propaganda and Pop Art

      January 20, 2012 07:49

      An exhibition by Mina Cheon titled "Polipop" at the Sungkok Art Museum focuses on the junction of political propaganda and pop art. Cheon is a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

      In the middle of a wall entirely painted in red hangs "Pokeman," a picture of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il satirically represented as the Japanese game character Pokémon. Cheon said she wanted to caricature the propaganda of the North Korean regime. "Coincidentally, the English phrase 'poke fun at' starts with the same letters as the cartoon character, so I made Kim Jong-il into that," she says.

      Mina Cheon

      "Traveling to Dokdo," a video installation is a compilation of footage captured by a CCTV camera on the way to the island and from a marathon to promote Korea's territorial sovereignty over Dokdo in Seoul on Oct. 25, 2011, which she took part in.

      Cheon is the daughter of Kim Hong-hee, the director of the Seoul Museum of Art, and majored in arts in Ewha Womans University before going on to MICA for further studies. Originally, her works mostly dealt with philosophical exploration of the universe. It was a trip to Mt. Kumgang in North Korea with her American husband in the summer of 2004 that made her turn to sociopolitical themes.

      "Our North Korean tour guide looked at my husband and wondered how I was able to end up with an American with genuine curiosity. I was shocked at her response," she recalls. In 2005, Cheon held an exhibition in Seoul featuring 99 dolls representing North Korean women soldiers, juxtaposing the innocence of these women with the brutality of the regime. Since then, Cheon has been working mostly on political issues, including North Korea.

      Her other works includes "Yes, We Can! Obama & Me," coupling an image of Obama shouting his campaign slogan, "Yes, We Can!" with Rosie the Riveter, a cultural icon of U.S. female factory workers during World War II, shouting, "We can do it!"

      "As Obama tried to change the world, I wanted to show that artists can do that as well," Cheon explains.

      The exhibition runs until March 13. For further information, contact (02)737-3650.

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