Jae Yong Kim has made a name for himself with his humorous, pop-art inspired ceramic creations. This December, the Art Alliance is pleased to present Kim’s installation, Donut Craze. Consisting of dozens of individually crafted ceramic donuts, Donut Craze explores issues of consumption, globalism, mass production, and pleasure through the lens of the humble glazed donut.
Currently based in New York City, Kim grew up in Seoul, South Korea, and has travelled extensively. Much of his earlier work revolved around the notion of home as, in his words, “a verb rather than a noun.” Before creating his donuts, Kim used cartoon-like snails to express his ideas about home and belonging. These slow-moving creatures literally carry their homes on their backs, so home is wherever they happen to be. Similarly, Kim has spoken of his own sense of home as a sense of constant movement and, most importantly, creative work. To make is to be at home, wherever in the world the artist finds himself.
Closely associated with American popular culture that has spread its franchises across the globe, the donut speaks to the rootless globalized world of production and consumption. Rather than offering us an overt critique of this reality, Kim’s work conveys an almost child-like joy and pleasure. His glazed donuts look good enough to eat, and viewers can’t help but smile at their bright colours and sometimes humorous shapes. Kim has said that he targets his work at young people, aiming “to make them happy.” Kim’s artistic process is also guided by the principle of pleasure: he works with each individual donut until he is happy with it, a process which takes three or four firings in the kiln over the course of many days. We might even think of the kiln as being like a baker’s oven, and indeed Kim has organized his studio to look like a bakery, with trays full of glazed donuts.
Despite their mass-produced appearance, each of Kim’s donuts is individually crafted in his workshop. The layers of glaze are meticulously applied, sometimes playfully alluding to the work of artists like Jackson Pollock, Claes Oldenburg, and Yayoi Kusama. Some of the donuts are shaped like Mickey Mouse heads, tempting the viewer to bite off an ear. Our consumer culture is made literal here, but it is also frustrated, because we can’t actually eat Kim’s ceramic donuts. After our initial delight at these whimsical donuts, we start to ask questions about production and consumption in a globalized world. Can we really just take uncomplicated pleasure in these donuts, or should we instead be asking, who is consuming whom?
Donut Craze will be on view from December 10, 2015 to January 3, 2016. The Art Alliance is open Tuesday through Sunday, 12 to 7 pm. Closed on Mondays.
Text by Flora Ward, Intern.