Commonwealth and Council

Condo Shanghai 2019 Hosted by Antenna Space

Young Joon Kwak


In order to achieve the desired texture on the surface of clay sculpture pieces, Young Joon Kwak would dip her hand into a bucket of slip—water and clay—and fling it with a limp-wristed motion. This gesture—which reminded Kwak of the pre-inscriptions of femininity and queer identity—inspired her video piece “Uh, As If!” The process also became a means of shedding bodily layers, using flippancy and faggotry as a tactic for resisting domination over one’s body. As a mode of creation, it births works from the abjected surfaces of the artist’s body, sloughed off as an index of her identity. The video’s title is derived from the shade of nail polish on Kwak’s hands.

As a trans person often confronted with confusion and conflation of genitals with gender identity, Kwak was driven to research aberrant surrogates for genitalia in mass media and consumer culture and encountered male sex toys, silicone tubes for male masturbation, marketed as looking and feeling like real vaginas. She inverted and further manipulated these to understand how manufactured forms—at times geometric, organic, or alien—could represent vaginas or connote a woman. These “vaginises” are both inverted casts of vaginas and molds of penises, their form highlighted by real silver, unsealed so that they continues to slowly tarnish over time.

Young Joon Kwak (b. 1984, Queens, New York; lives and works in Los Angeles) received her MFA from the University of Southern California in 2014, MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2010, and BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. A multi-disciplinary artist, Kwak is the founder of Mutant Salon, a roving beauty salon/platform for experimental performance collaborations with her community of queer, trans, femme, POC artists and performers, and the lead performer in the electronic-dance-noise band Xina Xurner. She has had solo exhibitions at Cloaca, San Francisco (2018); Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Canada (2018); Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2018); Satellite, Seoul, South Korea (2014); and Happy Dog Gallery, Chicago (2012). Kwak has performed at Serendipity Arts Festival, Goa, India (2018); Art Museum of the National University of Colombia, Bogotá (2018); Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); The Broad, Los Angeles (2016); Le Pavillon Vendôme Centre d’Art Contemporain, Clichy, France (2016); and Night Gallery, Los Angeles (2014). Selected group exhibitions have been held at Gas, Los Angeles (2018); 47 Canal, New York (2018); Anonymous Gallery, Mexico City, Mexico (2018); MANA Contemporary, Chicago (2017); Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (2017); Smack Mellon, New York (2016); Machine Project, Los Angeles (2015); and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2015). Kwak is the recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant (2018), the Art Matter Grant (2016), the Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s Artist Community Engagement Grant (2016), and the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Ox-Bow Scholarship for Sculptors (2011).