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Review: Soo Sunny Park brings variety, ambiguity

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 21, 2010 - Back in 2003, Soo Sunny Park was the first artist selected for Laumeier Sculpture Park's Kranzberg Exhibition Series. For that exhibition, the artist, filled the galleries with strange plastic structures that were futuristic and medieval at once. Park's works were architectonic, engulfing and disorienting the viewers, and one naturally expected her to continue working in the direction of installations.

She moved on from St. Louis where she was teaching at Washington University to Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. And for "Liminal Possession," her current show at Good Citizen Gallery, she appears -- momentarily, at any rate -- to have moved away from making full-blown installations.

"Liminal Possession" presents 12 remarkable works of sculpture, drawing and combinations of the two. Occupying a table in the center of the gallery is "Refraction Drawing" (2010), in which she's woven strips of Plexiglas through wire mesh to create a transparent, warped and twisted plane. Patterns drawn in chalk on the table's surface mimic the actual shadows cast by the piece, and the entire affair looks like a physics diagram come to life.

"Drawing 1 (Fontana Perforation)" and "Drawing 2 (Fontana Incision)" (both 2010) are more straightforward works on paper, both homages to Lucio Fontana, who famously slit and burned small holes in his canvases to literalize space within them.

"Inflection Drawing" (2010) makes inventive use of silver-painted light refractors, suspended by springs over a mirror. Touching the plastic refractors sets them into a wobbly dance that produces a dizzying refraction pattern.

The closest Park comes to her earlier installation work is in "Plato's Dichotomy" (2008), a drywall cave enclosing layers of flame-like patterns in mesh and backed by a mirror, which appears to extend the space into deep infinity.

One of Park's greatest strengths is her ability to elicit wondrous effects out of base materials (drywall, aluminum mesh, egg cartons, molded plastic) without transforming those materials altogether: We see what they are, and simultaneously accept their illusions.

What the works mean is hard to pin down, but Park operates best in that ambiguous, liminal territory where the suggestion is more powerful than the forthright declaration.

Ivy Cooper, a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon's art critic.

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