Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

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Unknown Creatures
  • Hur Unkyung
    born 1964
    active: Korea
  • Unknown Creatures, 2013
  • Where object was made: Seoul, South Korea
  • lacquer, wire, steel, clay, gold leaf
  • Courtesy of the artist and Leeahn Gallery, Seoul, South Korea
  • Not on display
  • EL2016.019.01-3
  • Loan: Not in the Spencer's collection
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Temporal Turn: Art and Speculation in Contemporary Asia", 11-Nov-2016
From H. G. Wells’s classic novel of alien conquest The War of the Worlds (1898) to Ridley Scott’s terrifying deep-space thriller Alien (1979), human encounters with off-world entities have typically been characterized as horrific. However, some movies and literature feature positive interactions with alien lifeforms, such as Steven Spielberg’s heartwarming classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Similarly, an encounter with Hur Unkyung’s Unknown Creatures would probably be a benign, if not pleasant experience.
Hur’s sculptural installation includes a large mother creature and two offspring. The Creatures are made of gold leaf coated in natural lacquer, which is the treated resin of the lacquer tree, a highly toxic relative of poison oak. Working with lacquer is an ancient technique that requires great expertise. For this triad of sculptures, Hur applied clear lacquer resin to a core material of wire and clay, thus infusing traditional craft with futuristic implications.