Like the artists whom he admires, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Agnes Martin, Byron Kim works in an area one might call the abstract sublime. His work sits at the threshold between abstraction and representation, between conceptualism and pure painting. In his richly hued, minimalist works, Kim seeks to push the edges of what we understand as abstract painting by using the medium to develop an idea that typically gets worked out over the course of an ongoing series. Kim’s paintings often appear to be pure abstractions, but upon investigation, they reveal a charged space that often connects to the artist’s personal experiences in relation to larger cultural forces. Interviewed in his sunny Brooklyn studio, Kim quips, “I’m a painter until 2:00 in the afternoon when the daylight in my studio is so blinding that I become a conceptual artist.”
Synecdoche is Kim’s signature work, which was started in 1991 and exhibited in the Whitney Biennial in 1993, is in the permanent collection of the National Gallery in Washington, DC. Comprised of a grid of hundreds of panels depicting human skin color, the work is both an abstract painting in monochromes and a group portrait. His ongoing series of Sunday Paintings, in which he records the appearance of the sky every week along with a diary entry, juxtaposes the cosmological with the quotidian.