Thursday January 21, 2021 | by Lindsay von Hagn

EXHIBITION: Jean-Michel Othoniel "New Works" created during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown on view in South Korea

Through January 31, Kukje Gallery in Seoul, South Korea is exhibiting new works by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel from his time spent in lockdown due to the pandemic. Known for his colorful, reflective, and resplendent works in glass, as well as materials like sulfur and wax, Othoniel's took to his sketchbook, which led him to minimalist forms and fresh color combinations in new glass brick works, lithographs, and rose-inspired paintings and sculptures created in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the iconic pyramid at the Louvre museum.

While examining Othoniel's works in the Winter 2012 issue (#129), contributing editor John Drury described a 13-ft-tall golden Precious Stonewall built of 4,200 blown and mirrored glass bricks as “an impenetrable closed form towering high above our heads,” and as “a site of transformation and wonder,” like the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz.

The Precious Stonewall works on display in the current exhibition are much smaller-scale than the one discussed in the 2012 article, and deploy new color combinations, including blue, yellow, and green. Yet, these brick walls possess the same transformative qualities in their strategically placement to reflect color on the gallery walls.

Drury also described Othoniel's work in 2012 as “[bearing] witness to the invisible”, something he achieves in this exhibition of his pandemic lockdown works. An example of this is “Stairs to Paradise,” a set of stairs made from blue glass bricks which, according to the Kukje Gallery's website, “captures the human desire to reach heaven or paradise, framing how the humble modular unit of the brick has led the artist to go beyond sculpture, morphing into an architectural installation that transforms the gallery space."

"The idea of Stairs to Paradise is more to bring a message of hope and joy,” Othoniel told The Korea Times, “Let's be born again and make a view vision for the new century. It is also a way to escape this moment we are all facing during COVID-19 which is very stressful."

“I think the power of art is also to invite us to escape the reality,” the artist adds.

The remaining works in this exhibition, entitled “La Rose du Louvre,” are a series of paintings and glass sculptures the artist was invited to create for the 30th anniversary of the glass pyramid of The Louvre. Inspired by a rose within Rubens' painting “The Wedding by Proxy of Marie de' Medici to Henri VI,” the sculptural works are Othoniel's abstract rendition of a rose. Accompanying the four sculptures are six black ink paintings on white gold leaves.

Through January 31, 2021
“New Works”
Jean-Michel Othoniel
Kukje Gallery
54 Samcheong-ro
Jongno-gu Seoul 
03053 Korea

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.