Kim Beom. Untitled (Intimate Suffering #11). 2012. Acrylic on canvas, 124 7/8 × 87" (317 × 221 cm). Fund for the Twenty-First Century

“Though my works have a sense of humor, usually pessimism and absurdity underlie it.”

Kim Beom

Kim Beom takes a humorous, irreverent approach to questions of meaning, learning, and understanding. “I don’t think that everything in human society is intelligent and reasonable,” he says. “Being absurd may not be a favorable human [characteristic], but it may be a part of [our] destiny.” 1

Kim is interested in exploring the ways in which knowledge is created and disseminated via educational systems and other modes of information circulation. He approaches this topic in numerous ways, though usually through a deeply absurdist lens. The installation series The Educated Objects (2010), for example, finds the artist instructing rocks and other inanimate objects in topics such as Korean poetry, a spectacle that is at once silly and tender in its suggestion of animism.

Part of a generation of artists who privilege ideas and language as subject matter in their work, Kim has forged a career defined by eclecticism, unencumbered by a desire to stake out a signature style and fluid with regard to mediums, materials, and methods. After decades away from painting, Kim returned to the medium in 2008 with the Intimate Suffering series, which includes Untitled (Intimate Suffering #11). This group of paintings is labor-intensive and darkly comic: in almost compulsive fashion, the artist painstakingly creates labyrinths, unrolling canvas in small sections and extending the maze as he goes.

The process of painting these works is for Kim almost an irrational act. He returns to the canvas section by section, executing by hand a task—the creation of a black-and-white maze first designed using Photoshop—that today would typically be the province of a printer. The concept of the laborer incongruously matched to his task, and his utter dedication to it nonetheless, is characteristic of Kim’s approach. Of this work, he has written, “This painting of [a] maze is based on visual perception that means it is not only to see, but also to read and solve the puzzle. The big puzzle is [a] metaphor of problems, matters, questions we face all the time as part of our lives in this world.” 2 Kim suggests that finding solutions to these problems is rarely a simple task and confronting our more complex challenges is an essential part of being human.

Note: Opening quote is from Taylor, Molly. “5 Questions with Kim Beom.” ELEPHANT, May 25, 2017.

Rebecca Lowery, art historian, 2018

  1. Molly Taylor, “5 Questions with Kim Boem.” Elephant (May 25, 2017).

  2. Artist questionnaire, Department of Painting and Sculpture, April 5, 2016.


13 works online



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