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by Minjae Kim
Presented by FORT MAKERS
Ace Artist in Residence

May 16, 2024 - August 1, 2024

Ace Hotel Brooklyn welcomes multidisciplinary artist Minjae Kim as the fourth artist to complete a residency at the property as part of Ace Hotel's Artist in Residence program in collaboration with Fort Makers.

Minjae Kim’s work exists at the intersection of interiors, furniture, sculpture, and painting. Reflecting both Korean and Western typologies, Kim explores meaning, place, and a fusion of ideas that predict playfulness and seduce through functionality.

Throughout the month of April, Kim resided at the hotel, conceptualizing, sketching and creating the pieces for this exhibition. Inspired by the current state of the world, the central artwork is an intimate peek at a chess game in progress, exploring ideas of accessibility as it relates to conflict.

Q and A With Minjae Kim

Making chairs that tell a story seems to be a wellspring of creativity for you. What was the first chair you made?

The first chair I made was in college at University of Washington. There was a furniture design studio as part of the architecture program. It was called the mantis chair. 4 carved wooden plate attached to a geometric steel frame. I actually used an angle grinder for the first time to shape a seat working on this chair and that’s how I’ve been shaping my chairs ever since

You’ve described your work as” emotional one-liners revolving around an idea.” Can you describe one of your “one-liners?”

The main idea behind calling my work one-liners was to free myself from conceptualizing the work too much so I could focus on actualizing the work. It also helped me clarify what the piece was about…For example one of the earlier fiberglass chair I made was titled ‘la Chapparita’ meaning the shorty. It was essentially a short chair standing on a solid wooden platform, compensating for its short height….of course it was the wooden platform that was doing all the structural work

Your studio is full of art, most of it made by you but also some pieces from friends and family. What was the most recent piece made by someone else that joined your studio collection?

From my recent visit in Seoul I met Seoul based artist Yoonjeong Lee and made a studio visit. I brought back a cast aluminum mirror with me.

Your studio has also expanded recently? We loved how you integrated a secret door to the new production room through a wall of cabinets. What can you tell us about the simplistically carved and painted skull and crossbones that functions as the door handle to this passageway?

When I realized my neighbor was moving out I knew I had to take the space to make my practice work. But I also liked the idea of doing a very subtle renovation keeping my original studio almost as is. I came up with a scheme to build some closets between two rooms and essentially making a secret door into the messy production space. I didn’t want to give a visible door hardware so I used one of unfinished carvings that was lying around. It happened to be a skull and I thought it was appropriate since resin and lacquer we use can be quite toxic.

You’ve traveled and worked in a number of places around the world. Where might you like to go next to expand your perspective of craft and making?

I’ve been thinking it could be fun to make more work in Europe… It’s so expensive to produce work in New York so anywhere in the world seems plausible at this point.

What have been the most surprising influences for you creatively?The Denver Art Museum recently acquired a piece of yours titled ‘Garb 4’ for their Textile and Fashion collection. This piece is also a light? Is dual functionality often a part of the way you approach making?

Garb series was a reference to traditional Korean garments and the bodies that often occupy them. The light was a good compliment to the quilted fiberglass used for the piece but wasn’t central to the piece. I’m very interested in functionality of my work but sometimes it simply serves as an excuse to make work.

You have worked with a wide variety of collaborators and creative partners. If you could come to the table with anyone for a project or conversation, who would be your dream collaborator?

I haven’t really done enough research to know who necessarily I would sit down with, but I have daydreamed of working with a choreographer for a piece that would be on a stage with a dancer.

Do you listen to music while you work? What have you been listening to recently?

I usually listen to a lot of old K-pop or old ballads. Recently I started listening to some Korean shaman music. Very heavy with a lot of percussion…It’s good to get the adrenaline going.

You have a masters degree in Architecture? What does this focus on architecture mean to your work, life and worldview now?

Understanding of design or the built world based on material assembly was the core of my architectural education. This gives me a lot of clarity when I’m establishing hierarchy in my design. It also allows me to feel grounded whenever I’m in a foreign environment.

What are your favorite buildings in NYC?

My favorite type of buildings in New York are probably the old carriage houses… Other than that I don’t know much about the building but I like the 42 Crosby st building. Also I love Scholastic Building by Aldo Rossi. Amazing facade.

How would you describe your current palette?

I’d say my default palette is natural and subtle...and from there I can work with accents as needed.

How do you find joy in making art?

I have to constantly remind myself how lucky I am because I tend to focus on the stress or the tasks or difficulties ahead.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a group show to open in a month or so. My work will be shown with JB Blunk and Isamu Noguchi among others so I’m feeling a huge pressure.