Coating the classic donut with pop art references, Jae Yong Kim’s layer icons upon icons onto his ceramic creations. His solo show at Lyons Wier Gallery in New York features a varied offering of shapes and flavors: 40 heart-shaped donuts make up a can of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans; Jeff Koons-inspired donuts are topped with teddy bear ears and plated in chrome; while Yayoi Kusama’s famous dots can be spotted atop the more traditional round variety.
Kim, who is slightly colorblind, tried to stay away from color early in his career—but he doesn’t shy away in this series. “When there are certain combinations, I cannot see things,” he tells The Creators Project. “So making these donuts was challenging. It was a long process for me to play with colors and patterns.”
He began the series around three years ago, and some of the baked goods on view have already traveled in exhibitions across the world. The groupings that make up a single “painting” and more pointedly cite pop art, however, are making their debut in the current Pop Goes the Donut exhibition. “These are more of a unit. A bunch of donuts become one,” comments the artist.
Kim, who was born in South Korea and has been living in the US for over 20 years, prefers to do away with cultural categorization. With studios in both Jersey City and Seoul, and a busy exhibition and teaching schedule, he travels extensively. “I don’t really fit in any culture. I’m just an artist who works internationally,” he explains. What stands out to him is the uniqueness of each individual—and this helps to explain why no two of his donuts are shaped exactly alike.
While the artist uses a basic mold as a starting point, each donut is individually hand-formed when it comes out of the mold. The donuts are glazed and go through multiple firings until the desired color and effect are achieved. “I lose a lot of donuts in the process,” says Kim, laughing.
Kim leaves it up to the viewer to decide if these are nothing but a sweet treat, or if a comment on mass consumerism in the art world accompanies the sugar rush. Either way, exercise caution — biting into these would definitely make a bloody mess.
Pop Goes the Donut is on view at Lyons Wier Gallery until May 14th in New York City.
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