Mina Cheon

b. 1973 in Seoul, Korea
Working in Baltimore, MD, and New York, NY, United States of America; and Seoul, Korea
Showing at Asia Society Museum and David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center
On view from March 16, 2021, through June 27, 2021
Mina Cheon Lesson 5

Mina Cheon, Still from Lesson 5 Feminism, Are We Equal?, 2017. Art History Lesson videos sent to North Korea. Courtesy of the artist and Ethan Cohen Gallery. Image courtesy of Mina Cheon Studio

Mina Cheon is a multimedia artist and activist best known for her “Polipop” paintings inspired by Pop art and Social Realism. Cheon’s practice draws inspiration from the partition of the Korean peninsula, exemplified by her parallel body of work created under her North Korean alter ego, Kim Il Soon, in which she enlists a range of mediums including painting, sculpture, video, installation, and performance to deconstruct and reconcile the fraught history and ongoing coexistence between North and South Korea. The artist received a BFA in painting from Ewha Womans University, Seoul, in 1996; an MFA in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1999; an MFA in imaging and digital art from the University of Maryland in 2002; and a PhD in philosophy of media and communications at the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, in 2008.

Art History Lessons by Professor Kim features a series of ten art-history lessons, created for a North Korean audience, featuring Cheon’s alter ego Kim Il Soon as Professor Kim. These relatable video vignettes ruminate on such topics as abstraction, feminism, Pop art, and social justice and are presented on portable Notel media players that are accessible to North Korean citizens. The video “lessons” were smuggled into North Korea on USB drives and SD cards through the assistance of North Korean defector organizations as a means to promote greater dialogue and understanding with the outside world. Accompanying the videos in the Triennial is a diptych from Cheon’s Dreaming Unification series along with a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, painted by a group of anonymous North Korean painters. The dialogue created between Cheon and her North Korean counterparts creates a symbolic bridge of reconciliation and understanding between North and South Korea.

Supported by Korea Foundation.