Visual ArtsMarch 31, 2015


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Some ideas come fully formed. Others take a less direct route. It was the by-chance way that brought the remarkable work of Korean-born artist Jae Ko to Grounds for Sculpture.

Tom Moran, Chief Curator and Artistic Director at GFS, explains—“I was at The Phillips Collection (in Washington D.C.) a few years ago,” Moran said, “and walked into a gallery and saw this amazing piece, made with rolled and stacked brown Kraft paper.”

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It was Jae Ko’s Force of Nature.

“I had to find out more about this artist,” he said, “so I tracked her down.”

Ko lives in Washington, D.C., but also shares a huge studio building on Maryland’s Eastern Shore with her partner, artist Jim Sanborn. Moran visited Ko at her studio and loved what he saw.

“She had all these sculptures made from paper that were colorful and incredibly intricate,” he said. So, Moran made his pitch. “I told her I wanted her to exhibit at Grounds for Sculpture.”

But Moran had a vision beyond showing some of the works he saw in Ko’s studio.

“I told Ko that we have an 80 foot long wall in one of the galleries, and that I would love to have her install a piece there.”

“It will make a big statement,” he said. “She was all over that.”

Moran also suggested that Ko create the piece with white paper.  “She was intrigued,” he said. “She’d never done that before.”

The result, which utilizes more than 20,000 pounds of recycled paper, is Force of Nature, 白 Shiro.

Ko and her partner travel extensively and the beauty of nature provides a basis for their work. “白 Shiro was inspired by glaciers in Alaska,” Moran said. “You can see that in the way Ko used the paper.”

And that aspect is even more apparent because the wall itself – where the sculpture is installed – is not flat.

“The rolls of paper actually look like living things,” Moran remarked. “The piece reveals all these patterns and layers. And even though it’s white, it changes color throughout the day, the way nature changes.”

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“I haven’t seen it once when it looked the same.”

Moran went on to explain that another piece, also made of white paper and installed on the opposite wall, is a continuation of白 Shiro. “But this is a different approach. You’ll see how she had fun with it,” he said. “It will make you smile.”

And it did.

A third piece, made of brown paper, is installed in a niche on the same wall next to the hedge garden.

Works made of paper stained black and in colors will be part of the continuation of Ko’s year-long exhibition and will go on view in the Domestic Arts Building.

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Force of Nature,白 Shiro opened on March 28. The full exhibition, Selections, opens to the public on May 9.

Moran is especially excited to present these works as part of Ground for Sculpture’s exhibition schedule.

“The work of Jae Ko is a beautiful fit for us,” he said.

This exhibition also kicks off the new season at Grounds for Sculpture.

I asked Moran about the process of putting together a series of shows.

“There’s a lot of scouting,” he said, “and then we meet, bounce around a lot of ideas, and try to figure out how to make the most powerful presentation.”

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Some shows spotlight major artists – like the Seward Johnson retrospective (on view until July 2015) or the Michael Graves show (which closes on April 12). “We had two blockbusters in a row,” Moran said.

Or there can be a different focus. “The season we are entering now will be quite a contrast,” Moran said. “We are showcasing artists that work independently.”

“At any given time,” Moran says, “we are putting together four or five artist openings.”

In addition to Jae Ko, the spring and summer schedule includes: Robert Lobe, In the Forest Drawn of Metal, featuring “Forest Projects,” collaborative works with Kathleen Gilje in the West Gallery; Karl Stirner, Decades in Steel; Jonas Stirner, One, in the Museum Building; Lauren Clay, Drishti, in the Domestic Arts Building; and new work in the park, The Oligarchs by Michelle Post.

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Shen Shellenberger
Shen Shellenberger

Shen’s been a Jersey girl for most of her life, other than living for a three-year stretch in Portland, Oregon, and six magical months in Tokyo. Shen loves the arts in all of its various forms – from the beauty of a perfectly-placed base hit to the raw energy of rock ‘n’ roll – and has successfully passed on this appreciation to her three grown children. Shen’s most recent jobs include WXPN (1993-2001) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2003-present). Shen also has been a working freelancer for 25 years, and operated her own frame shop in Mt. Holly in the late-70s.