Identity, Costume, Cliché

Here in America, we’re used to seeing half-naked women everywhere we look. But Korean women are taught to value modesty, and their exposure to these images is mainly through Western media. “We hardly use words like sexy or hot [to describe women],” photographer Ok Hyuan Ahn tells me by phone from Chicago. “Those words are only for American celebrities.” With that in mind, Ahn traveled to Seoul and asked her subjects to pose the way they’d seen in our movies and magazines. These women—most in their 30s and married—stare at the camera head on, their bodies draped over couches or sprawled on the floor. Despite being fully dressed, their facial expressions and body language radiate embarrassment and tension. (I felt uncomfortable just looking at them.) The awkwardness is genuine in this portrait series, and the poses are foreign. The exhibit Identity, Costume, Cliché: Korean Photography Today continues with work by Chan-Hyo Bae and Suk Kuhn Oh (regular gallery hours). ERIKA HOBART

March 6-27, 6 p.m., 2009

 
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