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.
Kim’s mid-career survey, Threshold traveled widely from the Berkeley Art Museum, CA to the Samsung Museum of Modern Art in Seoul and on to five other locations in the United States (2006/7). He was included in the landmark exhibition Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, at the Museum of Modern Art, NY and Tate Liverpool, UK (2008/9). Works from his Sunday Paintings series were on view at the Brooklyn Museum in the exhibition Unfolding Tales: Selections from the Contemporary Collection. In 2014 he was included in the exhibition Come As You Are: Art of the 1990s at the Montclair Art Museum which travelled to Telfair Museums, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin. In 2015, Kim’s work was presented at the Sharjah Biennial 12 (United Arab Emirates) and in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego titled Pond Lily Over Mushroom Cloud: Byron Kim Adapts the Black on Black Cosmology of Maria Martinez. In 2016, Kim was included in the group show Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY. In 2018, his work was presented at the 12th Gwangju Biennale in Gwangju, South Korea. A significant selection of Kim’s Sunday Paintings were exhibited in Byron Kim: The Sunday Paintings at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland in Ohio in late 2019. Kim's work is featured in the exhibition Artists and the Rothko Chapel: 50 Years of Inspiration at the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University, on view through May 2021.
Byron Kim, born in 1961, is a Senior Critic at Yale University. He received a BA from Yale University in 1983 and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1986. Among Kim’s numerous awards are the Louise Nevelson Award in Art, American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY (1993), the New York Foundation for the Arts Grant and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (1994), the National Endowment of the Arts Award (1995), the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (1997), and the Alpert Award in the Arts (2008). His works are in the permanent collections of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; the Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.; the M+ Museum, Hong Kong; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla, CA; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the Norton Family Collection, Santa Monica, CA; the Pérez Art Museum, Miami; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; the Tate Modern, London, UK; the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, CT; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; and the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA. Byron Kim lives and works in Brooklyn, NY and San Diego, CA.