SoHyun Bae’s powerful paintings, laced with vulnerability, combine elements of Jewish mysticism with
references to Korean feminine identity. Her exhibition, Wrapped Shards, includes paintings from her series
of the same name and three paintings from her Jasper Lake series. The Wrapped Shards series reflects the
influence of Bae’s mentor, Nobel Prize–winning scholar, author and activist Elie Wiesel, as it explores
the image of tzimtzum, also known as the “mystery of the breaking of the vessels,” a Jewish mystical concept
that attempts to explain the reasons for suffering in the world.
In these paintings, Bae metaphorically wraps the pieces of the broken vessels, applying rice paper to their
sharp edges. This act references the practice of women of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910), who gathered
scraps of cloth to create patchworks, or bojagi, with which to wrap gifts and domestic objects. It introduces
a feminine quality, specifically Korean, to the Jewish vision of the shattered world.
Bae’s Jasper Lake series, a continuation of her Wrapped Shards series, is inspired by the Taoist iconography
of the Land of the Immortal Peaches, an Eastern legend that tells the story of peaches that ripen every three
thousand years and confer immortality on those who eat them. Bae considers Jasper Lake “the shadow of
the Peach Orchard,” she says.
Each painting in the series speaks to a unique aspect of the mystical concept and legend. For example, the
painting Pelvic Terrain suggests a cavity containing a pool of water, “a source of life that drains through the
crevices of time,” she says. Bae, based in New York, has work in the collection of the Asian Art Museum,
San Francisco, and has exhibited in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seoul,
Shanghai, Toronto, Montevideo and Bologna.