Born in Korea, Soo Kim is a Los Angeles-based, American artist, who employs a technique of cutting and layering chromogenic prints to create areas of absence that imbue her photographs with a unique dimensionality and a sense of the passage of time.
Kim moved to Los Angeles from South Korea with her parents when she was very young. She received her B.A. from U.C. Riverside in 1991 and her M.F.A. from Cal Arts in 1995. When she was studying art at Cal Arts, she was doing sculptural installations and films.
She never formally studied photography and didn’t start making photographs until the end of her graduate studies. She continued to teach herself more about photography and then started cutting the pictures she took. She thought, “Why should I make an edition of a photograph? I should make a subtraction.” She started cutting and taking away more and more of the photographic image. “I try to change a photograph in order to include whatever the camera failed to record.” In this way she “can make a photograph that is unique – literally unique. An object, the only one like it in the world.”
To make her unique photographic art, Kim travels to distant locations to produce discrete bodies of work that reveal her deep interest in architectural structures. She has works that were made in Reykjavik, Taipei, and Panama City. Kim needs to research a place before visiting and tries to stay for at least two weeks. The first week she doesn’t shoot any photographs but walks around to get a sense of the city first. Then she takes her photographs, and these are mostly of buildings.
Her “Midnight Reykjavik” series consists of 12 works that were taken in the city at midnight on the summer solstice. She selected a rooftop vantage point of brightly painted houses in narrow streets with vistas of surrounding mountains and greenery. Each work in this series is made from at least two photographs, that were hand cut, layered one upon the other, and mounted between sheets of Plexiglass. These are powerful images portraying a city at its darkest hour. Her portrait of Reykjavik shows no people, no bricks, no glass since she hand-cuts these images out with a razor. By slicing into the prints’ surfaces, Kim adds a surreal quality to the skeletal outlines of this urban environment, in which traces of nature, trees, and water poke through the interior spaces.
Kim is a Professor and Program Director of Photography at Otis College of Art and Design, Valencia, California. In addition to solo gallery exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Pasadena, and San Diego, her work has been exhibited at the Pasadena Museum of California Art; National Center for the Arts, El Salvador; Gwangju Biennale, South Korea; Whitney Museum; Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; and most recently at the Getty Center’s “Cut! Paper Play in Contemporary Photography.”
Her work is in the public collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Broad Foundation, Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, North Carolina Museum of Art, California Museum of Photography, and the Getty Center.