Korean artist opens first solo U.S. museum exhibit

TRAVERSE CITY — Sweat dripped from Sueng Mo Park's brow as he flung the last wraps of foam padding from the corner of his sculpture and began to inspect its serpentine surface. Five men, including Park, spent part of Wednesday afternoon heaving, tugging and grunting to free the piano-shaped coil of polished aluminum wire from its shipping crate.

"This is the less glamorous part of the job," said Eugene Jenneman, Dennos Museum Executive Director, wiping grayish aluminum stains from his hands. "Nobody has seen anything like this in Michigan."

The frame survived its cross-Pacific trip and a short truck trip from Chicago. It's a good thing, too. Park's first three renditions of the sculpture sold to museums and collectors some time ago. The fourth, an artist's proof, took more than two months of labor to complete, he said.

Park created the monument to music and art by bending, shaping and gluing thick strands of aluminum spaghetti onto a fiberglass frame. He then polished the round wire until half its thickness fell away and left a flat surface of metallic flows, accentuated by dark valleys.

The 45-year-old artist also pioneered a technique for creating photo-realistic negatives from snipped, clipped and shaped stainless-steel mesh. The multi-layered portraits and landscapes appear — when viewed from the wrong angle or too close — to be little more than twisted, jagged wires and mesh. A step back and the images begin to appear. Two steps and they become clearer. Three and the illusion of depth flows from them. Park calls the technique MAYA. The technique emerged four or five years ago while he was experimenting, Park said.

Unpacking Park's seven sculptures was the culmination of months of work for both the artist and museum staff. It also moved Park one step closer to opening his first solo museum show in the U.S.