When he came to the U.S. in 2001, professor Bohyun Yoon said he heard plenty of stereotypes about Americans. But to his surprise, he didn’t find them all to be true. It was this realization that inspired his exhibition at Anderson Gallery, “Neighbors.”
Yoon is a full-time professor who started working at VCU last fall in the craft and material studies department. He was born in Seoul, South Korea and received Bachelors and Masters degrees in glass from Tama Art University in Tokyo. In 2001, Yoon moved to the U.S. and received a second Masters in 2004 from the Rhode Island School of Design. He taught at both RISD and the School of Art at Temple University before applying to teach at VCU.
“Here in the U.S. it’s a melting pot. It’s all kinds of people raised differently. Hearing those stereotypes scared me, but meeting those people, they were all the same — human,” Yoon said. “I wanted to make a walk dealing with race, and that’s the first starting point about this piece.”
When Yoon came to the U.S., he moved to Philadelphia where he was immediately confronted by how stratified different groups of people were.
“Color is divided by race, location and education,” he said. “My place in Philadelphia was like that, many young artists living there with not a lot of money, and had lots of ethnic people living there, so I started taking portraits of people.”
Yoon said he took the photographs and silk screened them on glass in different opaque colors, so when light shines through the photos, they all make the same uniform grey shadow on the wall.
“In the system we have all these divides — young, old, poor, wealthy, educated,” Yoon said. “The simple room structure is a metaphor for the institutional structure that we build, but (from) behind, on the wall, the space, it’s all the same color, the same human being.”
Inside the chamber structure there is a “chaos of color,” Yoon said, but the shadow on the wall is what unifies the people pictured in the photographs. He said when he photographed his subjects, he would angle the faces so that in the exhibit, the shadow resembles a wave, further unifying his subjects.
“The arts is a universal language, even if you don’t speak a certain language,” he said. “Even if I can’t speak English that well, my art can present what I’m thinking.”
Yoon’s work has been exhibited in institutions across the country, such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont, Hunter College in New York and the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia. His work has also shown at the Chungju International Craft Biennale in South Korea.
“I invited him to exhibit ‘Neighbors’ at the Anderson Gallery after I saw the installation at the Fleisher Memorial in Philadelphia,” said Ashley Kistler, director of Anderson Gallery. “This work is complex in material and content, and I felt that it was the perfect time to raise awareness that Bo is here with us as full-time faculty now.”
“Neighbors” will be on display at Anderson Gallery until Dec. 8.
“Often times he’s called a glass artist — and he works with glass in amazing ways — but his work includes so many aspects involving photography, the printing process, the 3D structure and the wonderful play of light and shadow,” Kistler added.
Yoon said he has enjoyed teaching for the School of the Arts thus far. He currently teaches “Intro to Glass” and next semester will be teaching “Advanced Glass,” “Critique Glass,” and Art Foundation courses.