Cultural ExchangeAuthor:Jessica Ritz
In the heart of Hollywood, Helen J Gallery showcases prominent contemporary Asian and Asian-American artists of the diaspora along with wide-ranging cultural programming
The expansive, light-filled, white-walled rooms at Helen J Gallery make for an optimal setting in which to show and sell art, but founder Helen J. Park sees the space as so much more. “I always felt like galleries should be easily accessible for anyone, even if you know nothing about art,” she says. So, Park, an avid collector, completed renovations to the property that’s hidden in the heart of Hollywood’s industrial corridor during the summer 2020. While managing the roller coaster that has been pandemic closures and re-openings, she and her team have developed robust curatorial and programming priorities within and outside of the traditional art world.
“We like to show emerging artists I get introduced to, or discover on my own,” Park says about her particular passion for championing artists in Asia and Asian-American artists. She taps into her longstanding relationships with leading contemporary art galleries in Korea, too. “We’re bringing a lot of artists to show for the first time in the U.S. [who] didn’t have the platform to show here.”
With the 4,500 square feet of beautiful streamlined rooms that occupy the two-story midcentury building with ideal indoor-outdoor flow, she can expand the role of a conventional gallery. (Park’s husband is an architect who maintains a studio upstairs from the gallery and in Manhattan.) Helen J Gallery has welcomed events such as a mandu, or dumpling, workshop with chef Myung-Nam Park that artist Jae Hwan Lim hosted, seeking to bridge the divide between North and South Korea as part of Lim’s art and social practice.
“I wanted to bring in a lot of cultural events so people can feel comfortable coming to a gallery,” she notes. “They can see an exhibit—or they just may be interested in the tea ceremony or the silk wrapping workshop.” She’s provided a venue for a pop-up market showcasing L.A.-based Korean and Korean-American artists and artisans, as well as music performances and hands-on experiences planned to coincide with the gallery’s installations.
“Helen is so passionate about supporting Asian and Asian-American artists who are working in the context of diaspora, and there hasn’t been a lot of public support for these artists,” says John Junghun Lee, Helen J Gallery’s Manager of Exhibitions and Programs. “There’s not a lot of actual push or concentrated effort for those voices. That’s been something that we’re all really proud of.”
As a global audience converges for Frieze Los Angeles this month, Helen J Gallery is partnering with Seoul’s internationally renown Gana Art gallery for an exhibition entitled Four Poems: Korean Abstraction. Curator Sunhee Kim organized the group show featuring prominent artists Oh Sufan, Park Seo-bo, Shim Moon-seup, and Yeesookyung that will be on view from February 17 through March 5. This group show is a rare opportunity to see works in Los Angeles from pioneering and leading practitioners that include two large canvases by Park Seo-bo and bulbous sculptures crafted out of porcelain remnants and repaired with gold by Yeesookyung. The timing is also auspicious given that the first Frieze Seoul is scheduled for this September—all the better to nurture creative and institutional synergy. “It’s very exciting,” Park says. “I feel very fortunate to do this collaboration.”
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