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Ivan Navarro's sociopolitical messages in optical illusion resonate in Korea

All Headlines 17:57 April 20, 2018

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- Bright, colorful neon lightings beam upbeat illumination into the dark gallery space. Just by looking at the captivating optical illusion of infinity, it is hard to imagine that the artist is conveying a grim, underlying message.

New York-based Chilean artist Ivan Navarro's primary medium is various forms of lighting, which he installs inside a small cube. His artistic sensibility has been shaped by his upbringing in Santiago under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled the country with an iron-fist from 1974 to 1990.

Three works by New York-based Chilean artist Ivan Navarro are exhibited at Gallery Hyundai in Seoul on April 20, 2018, in this photo provided by the gallery. (Yonhap)

At a press event for his second solo exhibition, "The Moon in the Water," at Hyundai Gallery in Seoul on Friday, the artist, 46, described how the concept of control in his work originated from his own experiences during the period "where people were physically controlled."

The military government not only physically restricted people's mobility, but also controlled them by cutting electricity at night, he said.

Known for his politically-charged messages, he created the "Electric Chair" series made of cold fluorescent lights, which alludes to capital punishment and electrocution. "The Twin Towers," an installation of light boxes and mirrors, reflects the horror of terrorism.

For his Seoul show, the visual artist has created a new set of artworks, titled "Vanity," by using mirror, light bulbs and LED, through which the gallerygoers can view their reflections on the work while ruminating on the meaning of the texts written on the surface, such as "Back to Square One."

"Vanity" series by New York-based Chilean artist Ivan Navarro exhibited at Gallery Hyundai in Seoul on April 20, 2018, in this photo provided by the gallery. (Yonhap)

Based on his long-running interest in music and drums, he turned the musical instrument into a work of art in his "Drum" series. By using regular and one-way mirror, he created the illusion of an infinite abyss. He gives particular attention to the drum which, he said, is "not just a musical instrument," but evokes his childhood memory of people playing it while protesting and marching on the streets.

In "Die Again (Monument for Tony Smith)," installed on the gallery's second floor, visitors can take a multi-sensory walk into the big black plywood structure, to the song "Nowhere Man" by The Beatles. At the end of the dark chamber is installed a neon-lighted white star that appear to recede infinitely downward.

Listening to the Beatles in a confined space in the past led him to create the work, the artist said, adding that the legendary band was a channel for him to the outside world and represented a "complete revolution."

The artist's sociopolitical themes can strike a chord with Koreans, for whom repressive military governments, their brutal dictatorship and violence, aren't a distant memory.

His work has been exhibited at global art festivals and institutions, including the Chilean Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2014.

The exhibition runs through June 3.

The image provided by Ivan Navarro and taken by Thelma Garcia shows Navarro's "Webeatme." (Yonhap)
The image provided by Ivan Navarro and taken by Jorge Martinez Munoz shows Navarro's "Drums." (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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