Yong Soon Min

Yong Soon Min is a multi-media artist. She was born in Korea and educated in the United States She received Bachelor of Arts, Masters, and Masters of Fine Arts degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. Min's works have been shown in numerous group and solo exhibition in the United States and abroad. She also lectures, authors articles and essays, curates exhibitions, and chairs the Department of Studio Art at the University of California, Irvine. Her latest activities include works for the Asia Society and a commission to curate a special exhibition for the 4th Giwangju Bienniale, which will be held in South Korea from March 31 to June 31, 2002.

Selected Objects

India, Uttar Pradesh, Sarnath area
Gupta period, about 475
H. 34 1/8 in. (86.7 cm); 1979.5

This Buddha embodies an inspiring synthesis of sensuality and serenity. It is endowed with many subtle, quiet qualities: simplicity, grace, and a disarming delicacy of expression and form. Sinuous, curvilinear forms repeat throughout the piece to create a harmonious whole. The Buddha also appears youthful and sensuous, even feminine with his full lips and the firm roundness of the body. And yet in his clarity and simplicity of definition, absent of any severity or stiffness in the pose, this Buddha emanates a powerful sense of repose and serenity. He would even seem to be suspended, floating, enhanced by the sandstone's lightness of hue, if not for the anchor of the mandorla and the base.

  Female Attendant
North China
Western Han period, 2nd century B.C.E.
Earthenware with slip and traces of pigment
H. 21 1/2 in. (54.6cm); 1979.110

I am powerfully drawn to her. She compels me to empathize with her. I identify with her broad, flat, simply defined face and flat feet. The irregular patch of redness around her face along with the marred and dirtied surface enhance the sense of pathos that she engenders, given the emotional and social damage derived from her station in life. She stands tentatively though with such rigidity in the slim hips, as if to render herself so self-contained, self-restrained, and diminutive, lest she take up any unwarranted space. And although she appears quite vulnerable in all her exposed humility and servitude, she nevertheless commands the kind of honor and dignity of someone who has nothing left to lose.

I feel eternal gratitude to the anonymous artist who fashioned her with such honesty, compassion, and conviction. It's a seemingly simple and stylized portrait with such economy of line and form yet it conveys a powerful sense of individuality, of an actual person in all her complexity.

  Storage Jar
Three Kingdoms period, Kaya or Early Shilla Kingdom, about 6th century
Stoneware with areas of ash glaze
H. 15 3/4 in. (40.0 cm), D. 16 1/2 in. (41.9 cm); 1981.2

I generally overlook ceramics but this jar caught my eye and kept it glued. It is so what it is. This work exemplifies well-worn notions that truth-is-beauty and that less-is-more in its emphatic, matter-of-fact rotundity! The jar exudes a surprisingly elegant voluptuousness despite or beyond the unadorned simplicity of its terracotta form. What initially seemed jarring (pun unintended but acknowledged) and somewhat comical-the tiny worm-like handles, which defy utility and seem superfluous to the otherwise essentialized form-have grown to accept and appreciate the wisdom of its inclusion; the jar would seem unanchored, as it were, without these visual weights.

India, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu
7th-early 8th century
Copper alloy
H. 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm); 1979.11

I'm a sucker for those love handles! I have to confess that this is what most attracts me to this figure. They're so pronounced and give this otherwise stiff statue a human and, I dare say, an endearingly humble and even humorous quality. Everything else about its physical features is rather bluntly though vigorously defined with straightforward lines. Its large hands also lend a rather boyish, gangly quality of one who is yet to attain full maturity.

  Head of Buddha
Mon style, late 8th-9th century
H. 6 in. (15.2 cm); 1979.78

Even though it is made of rough stucco, the head is exquisite. Its fullness and roundness of features suggest strong feminine qualities. Moreover, these features look familiar and bear startling resemblance to some women I know, conferring to this work an incredible sense of contemporaneity and immediacy. The severed head also brings to mind an installation project of a fellow artist, Dinh Le, that involves headless Buddha figures prevalent in the East coupled with numerous Buddha heads found in prominent Western collections and the implications of Western hegemony underlying this situation.