In the midst of an amazing experience viewing European art, my son and I stumbled into a world of light, shadows, and an oddly graceful mechanical ballet. U-Ram Choe’s “New Urban Species” exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville is called “kinetic sculpture” but there aren’t really words to describe what Choe does.
Choe, born in Korea in 1970, combines robotics, botany, and art history. The Frist presented Choe’s work perfectly against the dim lights and dark walls of a small, intimate gallery. Hung from the ceiling were conglomerates of gears and metal parts that rotated or opened and shut like the most delicate flower buds. The precise shadows cast by the sculptures created a further layer to each piece, adding to the sense that what we were seeing — though constructed with cold hard metal and precise machination — was somehow alive and supernatural.
If you have ever wanted to have your breath taken away, go see Choe’s exhibit at the Frist. If you can’t do that, he has a website with a well-done gallery of his pieces that shows his evolution as an artist. There are also videos on the website. (http://www.uram.net/) As good as the photographs on the website are, they don’t begin to do justice to the power and imagination of Choe’s art.