The Trenton Times / Jan. 18, 2004

Artwork by donation, Bits, pieces arrive for library mural

Princeton Public Library, NJ

Chris Karmoil



 A picture may be worth a thousand words, but an artistic vision is worth thousands of pictures to Korean painter Ik-Joong Kang. The 43 tears-old artist who has worked in New York for 20years assembles tens of thousands of 3-by-inch paintings for his murals and installations, shown in museums, galleries and public spaces worldwide.

His latest work, ¡°Happy World,¡± a 10by-30-foot arched-wall work mural, will stand at the entrance of the new $18million Princeton public Library is scheduled to open April 1.


¡°Once we saw his work we just got so excited we called him immediately,¡± said Leslie Burger, Library director. If all art is borrowed art, then Kang¡¯s work will truly fit that definition. A collaboration between the artist and the community, it will feature hundreds of donated objects-some of which Princeton locals brought to the Library¡¯s temporary space at the Princeton shopping center yesterday-including photos and drawings toys, items found on nature, craft, decoration and symbolic objects.


¡°As an artist, I¡¯m like a fisherman,¡± kang said of collection the various objects. ¡±We cast a fishing rod; scientists bring in the fish; economists chop it up; politicians distribute the pieces. Without the artist¡¯s imagination casting the rod, nothing happens.¡±


Kang uses the donated objects whole, or cuts pieces of them to adhere to 3-inch-squre pine blocks. He encases larger objects in clear plastic or attaches them to the blocks with sealants.

¡°Is this where I bring the stuff?¡± a woman asked as she approached the folding table where kang and Library workers sat sorting through plastic Ziploc bags, giving the appearance of a major archeological dig.

Kil Jae Park, who works for the Princeton Theological Seminary, brought a picture of his children, dressed in traditional outfits.

¡°The pictures hold so many significant meaning for us,¡± Park said. ¡°It tells us stories in visual ways. I knew that his work reflects the multicultural world we live in.¡±

¡°I heard there are 55 different languages spoken in Princeton,¡± artist kang said.¡±

¡°I hope this mural and installation can be like crossing different cultures and ethnicities.¡±

Kang will use his own found objects and painting on most of the mural¡¯s nearly 5,000 wood blocks, which he then adheres to 2-foot-square panels. Those panels, assembled in his Brooklyn studio, will be brought to the Princeton library for final assembly of the story- telling wall.

¡°There are a lot of walls between neighbors and even countries,¡± kang said yesterday.¡± ¡°By making the wall of art, I believe we can break down walls between each other.¡±


Kang¡¯s recent work includes a half mile wall of more than 50,000 south Korean children¡¯s pictures, entitled ¡°100,000 dreams,¡± assembles under a snaking vinyl tent in the de-militarized zone between north and South Korea. ¡°Artwork has an important power,¡± kang said. ¡°It¡¯s a starting point of awareness.¡±

His installation ¡°Amazed world¡± featured 35,000 children¡¯s pictures from 135 countries. It was set to open at the United nations on Sep.11, 2001, but was postponed for several weeks after the world Trade center attack.


Kang plans to use 365 donated objects, which the library will collect until Saturday, in his mural. He is one of seven artists commissioned to create works for the new library. Almost $300,000 was appropriated for the art works.


The other commissions includes a layered fabric wall installation by Princeton artist Margaret K Johnson; a traditional Guatemalan Armando Sosa; hand painted tiles by Lambertville artist Kathrine Hackl; a handmade book including the names of the library¡¯s donors by Buzz Spector, chair of Cornell University¡¯s art department; a ¡°tar Beach¡±- inspired mosaic by Englewood artist and writer faith Ringgold; and whimsical figures by Montclair sculptor Tom Nussbaum.


Many of the nearly 200 items the library collected yesterday were brought by children, but some without their knowing.

¡°I had to capture my 7-year-ond daughter¡¯s sprit,¡± said artist and Princeton resident Eva Mantell as she handed over a pencil drawing of a cocker spaniel in a hula skirt, drawn by her daughter Miranda. She also brought a beaded artwork made by her son, an ink drawing made by her children¡¯s great grandmother and one of her own photographs, a ¡°television college.¡±

¡°It¡¯s obviously his unique vision,¡± Mantell said of Kang¡¯s mural, but somehow he¡¯s allowed people to come into it. I like how it¡¯s communal and personal.