Jae Ko at the American University Katzen Museum by Rachel Sitkin

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Baltimore Design Conversation on Wednesday, December 3

Korean born and now D.C. based artist Jae Ko’s “Ten Year Survey of the Artist’s Work” consists of rolled paper sculptures unlike anything I’ve ever seen. These large craft-paper rolls transcend their familiar materials and take on monumental weight and presence. The rolls have been manipulated into seductive biomorphic forms and dipped in or brushed with glue and various inks, deep velvety-black sumi, a shiny alarming red, and one lone roll on a wall of it’s own in a soft buttery yellow.

The exhibition begins with the few pieces left in their neutral brown shade. These rolled stumps behave like the tress from whence they came. Especially handsome is one piece made up of several dozen rolls stacked on top of each other so t hat they droop and weigh each other into irregular shapes: exposed rings of a stack of fallen timber.

The series of black wall-mounted pieces wrap around the perimeter of the gallery. They reminded me of Mayan glyphs, concentric curving bands manipulated in such a way as to appear more stone-like than papery. Their rich, shimmering surfaces called out for a caress; I barely resisted.

But the knock-out of the exhibition is the centrally located floor piece of knee-high red rolls that appear to writhe and squirm across the floor, dipped in an ink so thick the paper is sealed and waxy. The particular shade is not quite blood but that rich oriental red that warns of danger or passion. The crowd gathered around this piece, waiting for a turn to praise Jae Ko and question how she does it.

Though just one of 4 exhibitions currently on view at the Katzen Museum, and stationed on the top floor, this sophisticated retrospective is the star.

Jae Ko received her MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in 1998. The retrospective will be on view at the Katzen Museum through Dec. 21, 2008. A gallery talk ( with the artist will be held Saturday Dec. 13.

by Rachel Sitkin

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