Returning to “I Want to Prepare to Learn Something I Don’t Know” at Commonwealth and Council – in addition to the business card cyanotype / blueprint pieces Porras-Kim constructed a small sculpture that enunciates the syllables /  letter sounds in Korean language as a disk spins showing the individual letters and symbols. (Apologies for my lack of pictures – they’re trapped in David’s mobile phone and currently at a construction site meeting in Gilroy.) Other evidence of her time in K-town include a print of an introductory email sent to the Korean Business District leaders asking for personal recommendations to local points of interest and businesses; photographs Porras-Kim made of business signs – blocking out the (to her) confusing text and thereby encouraging us to see the signs as public sculpture, indeed sculptures with a great deal of charm and personality.

Yet another work captured the act translation as it took place in her mind – beginning with Korean characters; then showing Porras-Kim’s understanding of these characters; then a phonic sounding out of the words and ultimately the basic American-speak words.

In conversation with the artist I learned of her ongoing impulse to… insert herself in unfamiliar cultures and to find a method of translation for spoken and written language and also of the cultural signifiers that residents take for granted. Often those signifiers are the things that mark a neighborhood as “different” and “not our own” to those of us who – though we may live geographically quite close – still remain outside. Incidentally, Gala Porras-Kim was born in Colombia and speaks Spanish, which allowed her to talk with Salvadorean neighbors living within the rather fuzzy boundaries of Koreatown. These Spanish-speaking people and co-immigrants are equally divided culturally from their North Asian neighbors. Two cultures can live and not meet even on the same block.

Asking Gala “What’s next?” I learned that she had just begun a study of the Zapotec spoken language at UCLA – she laughed and said, laughing, “Most other students are anthropology, teaching, and social studies majors. I’m the artist.”

Gala Porras-Kim graduated from CalArts in 2009. This exhibition gives us a rich and promise-filled introduction to her thinking. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

(Again – imagers coming Tuesday, by hook or by crook.)

By the way, about Commonwealth and Council as a project: Young Chung has curated exhibitions at various spaces in town over the years – sometimes these shows have a sensitivity to cultural issues, sometimes identity is explored but always Chung has offered the artist an open place to question and to show the resulting work.

In this new project Chung offers a two week residency (really loosely defined by the artist and Chung) and a space. In another room Chung plans to curate group exhibitions to accompany, at least timing-wise, the front-room residency.

Pay attention or you’ll miss imporant and intersting exhibitions.

Commonwealth and Council – 202 North Council, Apartment D, LA, 90004, 213 703 9077

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