New York designer Minjae Kim and her artist mother share creative worlds at Matter
During New York Design Week 2022, artist-designer Minjae Kim showcases new furniture at Matter Projects alongside works by her mother, artist MyoungAe Lee
The relationship between mother and son is seen through a creative lens in artist-designer Minjae Kim’s latest exhibition of new work. Staged at Matter Projects during New York Design Week 2022 and specifically alongside paintings by her mother, MyoungAe Lee, an artist based in their native Korea, Kim’s new explorations in sculpture, furniture and lighting follow an intimate line of thought that articulates the dialogue between his creative practices and those of his mother.
Over the past year, Kim has become one of America’s most exciting design practitioners. Drawing on a solid background in architecture and design (he received a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University and later worked for interior design firm Studio Giancarlo Valle), Kim embarked on the developing his own artistic practice during the pandemic, reinterpreting traditional Korean materials and techniques to create his now recognizable pieces in carved wood and sculpted resin. This New York exhibition is highly anticipated following Marta’s acclaimed solo debut in Los Angeles last year, which deepened the duality of her identity.
“I grew up watching [my mother] constantly trying to balance his domestic role and his identity as an artist, which sometimes resulted in a form of guilt [in me]; the feeling that raising me was kind of preventing her from being the artist that she should be,” Kim reveals. “It was a feeling I had always had in my twenties, so when my work started to be recognized, I naturally wanted his work to be part of my world. I had his work included in my first exhibition at Marta’s, and if I had any press, I wanted her paintings to be in the pictures. It was always so exciting because I could really see her influence in my work when they were [shown] whole. When Jamie [Gray] from Matter offered a show in New York, I was ready to see this narrative unfold. I also wanted my mother, who lives in Korea, to see the world I’m building and be a part of it. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it.
“I wanted to make pieces that directly respond to his work to really project his language into me” – Minjae Kim
Kim’s new body of work includes 18 new pieces, including four fiberglass chairs, a cabinet, four floor lamps, two benches, a wooden chair, a quintet of cast aluminum chairs, and a dining set. eat, made in collaboration with the house of Gray and Matter. design team, who together blur the lines between furniture and sculpture. Displayed alongside 15 paintings by Lee, marking his US debut, the exhibition creates a cohesive environment that visually represents Kim’s childhood artistic experience.
Kim says, “I wanted to make pieces that directly respond to his work to really project his language into me. I thought a lot about how it would take her hours to shape an outline or build a shade of color into her work. Knowing that his work will occupy the walls informed the layout and typology of [my] work, and also made me feel more comfortable using colors. I knew it would allow me to work much more freely.
The scale and production of the works exhibited demonstrate a clear progression in Kim’s practice. “I was able to develop my practice a bit since last year. Much of the work I showed Marta a year ago was done in my basement and backyard before I even had a studio,” Kim continues. ‘This time I was able to produce a slightly larger production with the help of many talented makers and sales people in New York and also some helping hands in the studio. I worked with Zak+Fox, Jouffre and also the production team at Matter Made to bring an idea for an upholstered cabinet over 8 feet high to life. It was incredibly exciting to be able to work with these professionals that I had immense reverence for during the years that I worked as a designer in New York. It was a daunting concept to pull off, but having them by my side really gave me the confidence to push it forward.
There is no denying the love and reverence for the son’s mother that was on display. While the two have been apart most of the time since Kim started her solo career due to the pandemic, Kim says Lee ‘came around ten days before the opening and it was the first time she had seen my work in a meaningful way.
He says: “Seeing the work in real life answered a lot of questions she had just seeing them through photos over the past two years. I also think watching this show helped her believe in my practice and allay the worry she had when I left my desk job. It also showed him my understanding, appreciation and respect for his work, especially with the new fiberglass chairs, which are my tribute to his work. She jokingly told me that she expected me to pay her royalty for this new body of work, which I certainly will. §