Artist Woolga Choi has created a world where smiling fish, floating eyeballs, glowing watermelons and Picasso-esque people exist in chaotic harmony like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The whimsical people and bold blocks of colors assault your visual palate like a strong salty taste, but somehow complement the sweetness of the smiling animals, hidden Hello Kitty stickers and overall playfulness of the shapes and pigments.
Choi will show pieces from two bodies of work — Black XP and Play — at the Yace Gallery in Long Island City from May 31 to July 14 in an exhibition titled “Scent of Instinct.”
Black XP encompasses several giant, mostly 48-by-70 inch, oil paintings that showcase prominent outlines of people surrounded by floating shapes — whereas Play is a series of paintings, much smaller in size, which features a plethora of smaller objects and animals.
Choi has worked on these art pieces since 2006, but has painted in this style for the last 30 years — for 13 of those years he has lived in Manhattan. The artist’s exuberant style mixes a variety of techniques and mediums, such as scraping away paint to reveal a background color, stenciling, collaging together stickers as well as streaks of color pencil and lots of smooth oil paint.
In the last four years Choi has been experimenting with plastic sculptures as seen with his dog-like creatures at Yace Gallery.
The paintings and sculptures play with the ideas of primitivity and anarchy, in a style he calls “visual primal screams,” he said in an artist’s statement. Not only do the objects in his works fit this methodology, but the vivid color choices — sunflower yellow, primary red and many other bold hues — also hit the viewer with the power and intensity of a scream.
But let’s gets back to the notion of harmony in all the chaos and intensity. The yin to that yang is the playfulness the viewer will also see.
While intense, the paintings are still as fun and lighthearted as the Korean-born artist himself. Choi is svelte and energetic and talks about his native country and the philosophy behind his works — through a translator; he only knows a bit of English — with a youthful smile.
As in an I Spy game, the viewer can search for a watermelon, floating eye, various creatures, smiling fish or delicate flower in each of the paintings and sculptures, which go for between $5,000 and $60,000.
“Everyone can share the watermelon; it’s not like one cherry you eat by yourself,” Choi said.
The watermelon represents something ordinary that everyone can relate to, said Choi, and a watch represents his philosophy and how the world ticks — as depicted prominently in his favorite painting “Philosophy as a Way of Life,” shown on the qboro cover.
In addition to the repeated objects, Choi often scrapes lots of little horizontal lines around blocks of color, creating a patchwork appearance.
All in all the dynamic works are something to study and enjoy.
‘Scent of Instinct’
When: Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Mon. and Tues by appt.
Where: Yace Gallery, 44-02 23 St., Long Island City
Tickets: Free to look, yacegallery.com