Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

Una Kim | Battlegrounds

Sylvania North View Gallery

Painting of person holding out arms with counting hatch marks on the wall behind them.

Una Kim, Waiting, 2023, mixed media on Stonehenge paper, 44 x 30″. (Photo: Una Kim)

  • Extended exhibition dates: January 8 – March 8, 2024
  • Gallery hours: Monday – Friday, 8am-4pm, Saturdays by appointment
  • Evening hours: Thursday, February 15, until 7pm
  • Opening reception: Saturday, January 27, 3-6pm
  • Speed culturing with ESOL students: Thursday, February 8, 12-1pm
  • Artist talk: Wednesday, February 28, 3-4pm
  • Workshop with ESOL students: Monday, March 4, 10:30-11:30am

The North View Gallery is pleased to announce our January show, Battlegrounds, an exhibition of new work by HARTS (Humanities and Arts Initiative) Artist in Residence, Una Kim.

Battlegrounds features recent mixed media paintings of abstracted figures that dance and struggle against internal and external forces. A new series of rice paper banners additionally investigate both the liberatory and colonizing practices of formal education. Una Kim is the last of six artists and writers selected for an innovative residency program at Portland Community College, initiated by former PCC President Mark Mitsui and inspired by an Obama Administration laureate program. The residency was recently defunded, which makes this our final HARTS Artist in Residence exhibition.

Kim is particularly interested in tensions between figuration and abstraction. Many of her figures appear fully formed, then unravel in layers of emotive brushstrokes. The interplay between loose, messy forms and controlled line work, echoes the battlegrounds of the exhibition title. Kim also uses color to create a push and pull, revealing the three-dimensionality of a delicate face, then highlighting the flatness of the surface with drips, gestures, and even hash marks. The physicality of these large-scale paintings is stunning and recalls the intensity of artists like Marlene Dumas, Willem De Kooning, Max Beckman, and Rick Bartow, a significant influence on Kim’s development.

Painting of figure on purple background.

Una Kim, Alone, 2023, mixed media on Stonehenge paper, 44 x 30″. (Photo: Una Kim)

In Korean, Una means “embrace the world”. And while the figures in Una Kim’s new work bend and twist to fit into the limiting structures of oppressive systems, they also open their arms to embrace the world around them. The contorted figure in Waiting marks the days, waiting for the world to change, for the end of what bell hooks identifies as the White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy. At the same time, the figure embraces a whirlpool of gestural ferocity that counters the repetitive hash marks enforcing order on the composition. Perhaps waiting is not a path to liberation.

The work in this show additionally builds on themes that Kim has engaged with throughout her career. The artist emigrated to the United States from South Korea when she was young and as an immigrant and ESOL student, Kim became interested in languages, both visual and verbal. Words and forms can demarcate battlegrounds, contributing to a sense of belonging or creating barriers. In this exhibition, Kim employs her own visual language to expose the challenges of using one cultural map to navigate a new culture. What does it feel like to be immersed in a new culture that marginalizes and often enacts violence on anyone who is different?

Two banners with words and people and red Xs.

Una Kim, We Are Here, diptych, 2023, mixed media on rice paper, 71 x 76″. (Photo: Una Kim)

We Are Here, one of the rice paper diptychs created during the HARTS Residency, presents clusters of figures drowning in a sea of information. The figures are overwhelmed by plastic overhead projector sheets and Letrasets; evidence of the language of capitalism and colonialism permeating US education. Kim is interested in the fact that this plastic detritus of the classroom will not decompose and will thus persist long after the rice paper has deteriorated. The dialogue between the organic nature of the rice paper, the artist’s gestural strokes, and the harsh coldness of the plastic points to another battleground within this exhibition. The plastic transparencies of the dominant culture will be with us long after the current battlegrounds have shifted and new ones have emerged.

Purple head and intense, angry lines making up the figures body.

Una Kim, In Pieces, 2023, mixed media on Stonehenge paper, 44 x 30″.(Photo: Una Kim)

Kim’s figures dance and writhe across the gallery walls. Some appear broken and isolated. Others are bound together, either stereotyped and dismissed or buoyed by the strength of community, evidence of the more we are together. Much of the work in this exhibition is a response to the trauma of navigating battlegrounds built by others. Kim’s intense gestural marks create openness, even spaces of freedom, amidst the demands, rules, and marching orders that bind so many in Kim’s universe. In this new exhibition, Una Kim creates a visual intensity that expresses her feelings about the battlegrounds historically marginalized people in the US must navigate on a daily basis.

About the artist

Una Kim was born and raised in South Korea and immigrated to Los Angeles, California, USA at the age of sixteen. She attended undergraduate school at the University of Southern California and graduate school at the Parsons School of Design, New York. She has shown successfully nationally and internationally and recently completed several large murals in the Portland area. Her latest solo exhibition opened in August 2023 at the May Museum, Gwangju, South Korea. She teaches at Portland Community College and Portland State University. Learn more about her work at unakim.net.

About the gallery

  • Address: 12000 SW 49th Avenue, Portland, Oregon, 97219
  • Hours: Monday – Friday, 8am-4pm, Saturday by appointment
  • Directions: Follow signs to the bookstore and visitor parking. The gallery is located in the Communications and Technology (CT) building, adjacent to the bookstore, on the NE corner of the Sylvania Campus.
Painting of three abstract figures

Una Kim, The More We Get Together, triptych, 2023, mixed media on Stonehenge paper, 44 x 90″. (Photo: Una Kim)

Sponsored in part by the Portland Community College Artist- and Writer-in-Residency Program and HARTS (The Humanities and Arts Initiative).

HARTS logo in blue.