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Book Review: Slow Talk


Book Review Slow Talk By Bohnchang Koo Reviewed by David Ondrik South Korean artist Bohnchang Koo’s Slow Talk is a quiet book of meditative, abstract black and white photographs and a catalogue of his exhibition at Ivorypress Space in Madrid, Spain. This is a book that is meant to be held and experienced physically.

Slow Talk. By Bohnchang Koo.
Ivorypress, 2014.
 
Slow Talk
Reviewed by David Ondrik

Slow Talk
Photographs by Bohnchang Koo
Ivorypress, 2014. 96 pp., color and black & white illustrations throughout, 8x9½".

South Korean artist Bohnchang Koo’s Slow Talk is a quiet book of meditative, abstract black and white photographs and a catalogue of his exhibition at Ivorypress Space in Madrid, Spain. This is a book that is meant to be held and experienced physically. The sliver-gray cover is very tactile — toothy paper with the artist’s name and book title subtly embossed on the surface invites the reader to feel as well as see. The interior pages are equally tactile, delicious to touch.

The book starts with a brief introduction by Elena Ochoa Foster, founder of Ivorypress, and a brief essay by curator and historian Gabriel Bauret. The photographs are organized by subject and the introductory image for each series is accompanied by a short poem that primes the viewer for the high-key images to come.

Slow Talk. By Bohnchang Koo. Ivorypress, 2014.

The first half of Koo’s abstractions look like they were taken on snowy fields — across the whole book subject matter is almost irrelevant. These images are explorations of line, shape, rhythm, and tone, not records of people, places, or things. Nearly everything here could easily be charcoal drawings; a feeling enhanced by the heavy matte paper.

In many ways the photographs owe more to music than photography, as it’s nearly pointless to describe what they look like. “Pine needles on snow” is as woefully inadequate as describing the Beach Boys as “poppy” or Beethoven’s 6th as “relaxing.” All of the magic is lost with such superficial renderings, which is why music critics usually compare new songs to what has come before. So here goes. The first two series, White and Pencil of Nature, evoke Cy Twombly and Minor White, while Ocean’s parentage can be directly linked to Vija Celmins and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Portraits of Time could be quieter versions of Mitch Dobrowner’s storm-swept landscapes (but aren’t).

Slow Talk. By Bohnchang Koo. Ivorypress, 2014.
Slow Talk. By Bohnchang Koo. Ivorypress, 2014.

The only real drawback to the book is that it’s difficult to imagine the scale of the original photographs. Although centimeter dimensions are listed in the back pages, I’d really have liked to see an installation shot just to ground the numbers in the real world.

Slow Talk. By Bohnchang Koo. Ivorypress, 2014.

Filled with quiet photographs that invite you to slow down and experience them, rather than look at them, Slow Talk is an experience worth spending time with.—DAVID ONDRIK


DAVID ONDRIK is an artist, high school art teacher, and writer who grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and now lives in Portland, Oregon. http://www.artisdead.net.

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