Who is Kate Oh? One of those rare gallery owners who is herself a gifted artist. A champion, interpreter and reinventor of Korean art. Her work is representative – with a contemporary and often humorous twist. Figurative, she’s a storyteller. In sum she’s an innovator who dares exhibit newsworthy shows even in the height of New York’s summer. Her personal and painting style are classic – and a class act. Her paintings are little worlds, complete unto themselves. No sloppiness here dribbling off the canvas. And she shows all this in a classy Parisian-like setting in her Upper East Side suite on 79th just off Mad Ave.
Kate is not only known for her own unique art but also for her leadership and support for Korean art in general. This summer she hosted several Korean art shows, with official support of Korean organizations – much like the Met did its noteworthy “Diamond Mountains” show this last spring in collaboration with the Korean government.
This summer’s first exhibition was a collaboration between herself and the KFAA (Korean Fine Arts Association) – https://wsimag.com/art/41379-international-art-exchange-exhibition – featuring the works of 16 Korea-based artists and 16 America-based artists. This is an example of her ability to establish broad ranging partnerships that in turn create opportunities for artists to expand their practice in diverse settings beyond gallery walls.
Kate Oh in her own art uses traditional materials and techniques to explore a special traditional area of Korean art, Minhwa. Minhwa commonly refers to a genre of Korean folk art from the late Chosŏn era (17th–19th C.). Based on Shamanic, Buddhist, or Confucian themes, Minhwa, as a popular form, conveys freshness and vitality in a relaxed ambiance, in contrast with the more scholarly and stern Muninhwa-style favored by the yangban, or aristocratic, class. The use of vibrant primary colors and exaggerated painting styles were indicative of the taste of the middle-class, who wanted to imitate the yangban love of art, but with a touch of flamboyance.
This summer – and during her special shows – her own recent pieces of the “Chochungdo” series can be found on display. Chochungdo is a painting genre initiated by the Korean poet and artist, Sin Saimdang, in the 16th century that depicts plants, fruits, and insects.
Kate’s interpretation of classical Chochungdo invites viewers to contemplate in the small natural worlds she creates. The eye is never tempted to leave these worlds. Her artwork depicts the intimate relationship between insects, fruit, and vegetation, all of which she painted with a delicate lightness of touch. Abstract butterflies, realistic wasps, beetles, frogs, and praying mantises are busy – and often fooling around – in the foliage. A true delight! Two mice on all fours are scattered among the leaves while dressed in bride and groom clothing, sharing a piece of melon. Wit, often partially concealed, plays on this classical genre, gives it life, and connects it with the contemporary world. This humor is vividly portrayed and captured.
Kate Oh created her gallery last year. Its focus is on emerging and mid-career artists. Its mission appears to be to advocate for the work of lesser-known artists, of western and non-western artists alike. Her openings – by RSVP and invitation only – are on Thursday afternoons from 4-8pm. Her next show, opening this Thursday, August 23, is curated by Pema Rinzin and features works by Marlon Forrester, Erin Hinz. To go to the opening email the gallery, firstname.lastname@example.org. To view the show email for a personal tour. The gallery will be open to the public on two Saturdays in September, the 1st & the 15th, from 11-5pm.