Somewhat unexpectedly on West Hollywood’s Melrose Avenue, with its gaudy colours and billboards, gallerist Rosa Park has cleverly created a sanctuary that instantly soothes the senses. Expanding from Francis Gallery’s first location in Bath, UK, Park’s second space has recently finished its year-long renovation.
Francis Gallery Los Angeles: the art of gallery design
Working in partnership with Lindsey Chan and Jerome Byron of LA-based studio BC, Park has created the antithesis of a stark white cube, instead exploring her talent for developing restrained environments that are harmonious with the works she shows. ‘I wanted to add softness and curves to what is otherwise a very clean, hard-edged space,’ she says. Unlike Francis Gallery in Bath, a Georgian townhouse, the Los Angeles gallery comprises a concrete shopfront. ‘LA is the kind of place where you can make anything that you want it to be, right?’ she jokes. She did so by referencing shapes and forms synonymous with Korean culture, such as the curved partition wall constructed at the centre of the gallery that emulates the form of a Korean moon jar, when viewed from a bird’s eye perspective.
Park worked only with natural materials, in a colour palette she calls ‘nuanced neutrals’, inspired by Korean and Californian hues, adding warmth and texture. Walls are painted with Portola’s Lime Wash in an off-white (nothing is optic white or black) and natural linen blinds diffuse the light (intentionally blocking out the busy street outside). She chose the smoked oak flooring from Madera and used only antique brass hardware for the same reason: ‘It will age beautifully over time.’ She adds, ‘Even though the gallery has just opened, I wanted the space to feel as though it’s been around for a while, for it to already be imbued with a sense of time.’
She commissioned artist Minjae Kim (who held a solo show at LA's Marta Gallery in 2021 and showed at Matter Projects during New York Design Week 2022) to create a round table and bench set for the back area of the gallery, while the long benches for the interior and courtyard were custom-made in-house, alongside upholstered cushions for a rare two-piece antique Korean summer bed, used separately as two low stools.
Outside in the courtyard at the rear of the gallery, Park points out the elements that are redolent of a traditional Korean hanok courtyard: ‘The low bench seating; the stone-like concrete steps; the single tree – in our case, a maple planted in the middle.’
All the consideration paid to the surroundings speaks directly to the consideration Park pays to her artists, who are on view within the gallery.
The inaugural show: ‘Morning Calm’
Titled 'Morning Calm', the gallery’s inaugural Los Angeles art exhibition includes mostly unseen works by six contemporary artists, both Korean and of Korean-American descent, at various stages of their careers, working in multiple mediums, and living in Los Angeles and Seoul.
John Zabawa is a Korean American artist specialising in portraits imbued with a sense of nostalgia. Park first showed his work in Bath in 2020, and for this show, he painted a rare self-portrait.
This is the first time young painter Song Jaeho has shown work outside of Korea. ‘I love the lightness, wit and humour to how he paints,’ says Park of his abstract oils.
Rising star Bo Kim works more traditionally, carrying on the ‘Dansaekhwa’ movement focused on monochromatic simplicity. Using layers of acrylic and sand, her works address decay and physical ageing over time.
Renowned photographer Koo Bohnchang has travelled the world photographing antique Korean vessels in prestigious museums, with the hope of ‘reuniting’ these artefacts that were taken out of the country due to war and colonialism through his images. The show also includes never-before-seen works of old Korean farming and fishing tools.
Rahee Yoon created some sculptural acrylic tables finished with the traditional ‘ottchil’ lacquering technique, which uses tree sap to create an intense dark brown hue. The finish takes two years to fully cure and will keep subtly changing colour until then.
LA-based ceramic artist Nancy Kwon has created wall hangings that call on her conservation expertise and abstractly resemble ariel footage of rice paddies, towns, and coastlines.
The show takes its name from the generations-old mistranslation, ‘The Land of Morning Calm’, and questions notions of time, place, memory, imagination and history as well as the idea of ‘Koreanness’. ‘This phrase leads me to a place where Koreanness is not absolute, but rather a collection of personal beliefs, meanings, and values that is ever-changing and shape-shifting,’ says Park.
‘Morning Calm’, until 7 January 2023 at Francis Gallery, Los Angeles. francisgallery.co
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Tilly is a British writer, editor and digital consultant based in New York, covering luxury fashion, jewellery, design, culture, art, travel, wellness and more. An alumna of Central Saint Martins, she is Contributing Editor for Wallpaper* and has interviewed a cross section of design legends including Sir David Adjaye, Samuel Ross, Pamela Shamshiri and Piet Oudolf for the magazine.
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