Juicy–SunKoo Yuh at the Philadelphia Art Alliance


SunKoo Yuh
by SunKoo Yuh

Ceramics and paintings, local and national/international–the Philadelphia Art Alliance has been mixing it up to good effect.

This outing (until Dec. 30), along with paintings from two local artists Tim McFarlane on the first floor and Catherine Gontarek at the annex across Rittenhouse Square, ceramic sculptor SunKoo Yuh fills the second floor with work that binds East with West, whimsy with seriousness, and the mysterious and suggestive with the unenigmatic quotidian.

SunKoo Yuh
Year of Pig, 2007
porcelain, glazed, Cone 10
courtesy Helen Drutt, Philadelphia

The sculptures–a sort of human comedy, with people and animals bursting from compressed spaces–are coated with fabulous drippy glazes, multiple layers thick. Most of the people look Asian, some not. Yuh’s parents are Korean and he received his MFA from Hong Ik University in Seoul, Korea, and an M.F.A. degree from New York State College of Ceramics in Alfred, NY. He’s an associate professor of ceramics at the University of Georgia in Athens.

In Yuh’s sculptures, people look busy, foolish, self-absorbed…–all the ways that people look. Some of the imagery reminds me of Asian drawings of people behaving silly–like the pictures of tipsy men by Japanese artist Ike Taiga at the PMA recently (see post). The people are often accompanied by animals and objects that might help define what the artist is saying. A pile of pigs atop a man’s helmet, or an ornate mirror in a hand, imply a comment about the people in the sculpture.

One More Chance. Porcelain, glazed, Cone 1. Courtesy Nancy Margolis Gallery, NY
One More Chance. Porcelain, glazed, Cone 1. Courtesy Nancy Margolis Gallery, NY

I am at once reminded of the surfaces and sense of energy and freedom in Robert Arneson’s ceramics. But unlike Arneson, who takes a four-square approach, there’s an all-around quality here in which the four directions of the compass are surpassed by all the degrees of direction in between. There’s no front, no back, no sides, here. The figures–hipsters, swamis, little-miss-know-it-alls–sprint from their moorings in all directions.

Yuh is not an unknown quantity in Philadelphia; he has shown at the art museum, at the Clay Studio and previously at the Art Alliance.

Anyway, this is work not to be missed.


philadelphia art alliance, sunkoo yuh



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