Imagination Takes Wing at Art Center
The ancient Greeks called them ``psyche,'' or ``soul.'' They've been represented in art for centuries, and now there's an exhibition completely devoted to them: ``Iconography of Butterfly,'' curated by Um Ki-sook at the Fine Art Center of the Korea Culture and Arts Center.
Um intends for this exhibition to be a comparative analysis of Eastern and Western culture through the image of the butterfly. Her objective is to ``discover our [Korean] identity among others,'' as she put it.
The catalogue accompanying the show provides an interesting survey of artists throughout history that have incorporated butterflies in their artwork, from Dosso Dossi to Andy Warhol.
The show brings together artists from Korea, Europe, Canada and America whose artworks incorporate butterfly imagery. But that's not to say they use the image as decoration, like wallpaper or bedsheet patterns. The butterfly for them is an icon, an image loaded with significance.
Iconography is the systematic study of images and their symbolism. In this show, the familiar image of the butterfly goes through a metamorphosis, so to speak, in the hands of these artists that turn it into a variety of different symbols.
Outside the exhibition space proper is a tangle of tree branches that create an archway for visitors to pass under. This sculpture, by Moon Byoung-tak, called (in translation) ``Is That Really There?,'' sets the tone for the show to follow. It's a piece of nature reworked to produce the symbol of a passageway, something like cocoon opening onto new beginnings.
Jack Vanarsky, in his sculptures, mimics natural tableaux with realistic butterflies perched on driftwood. Some of the pieces are mechanized, so that the butterfly wings flap. The effect, at least from a distance, is a little disconcerting at first.
Vanarsky also contributes a quite bizarre sculpture of a clear plastic human skull, sliced into sections like a loaf of bread, in the center of which is a butterfly. …