The Heart of A Hand (2023)
MARCH 25 – JULY 22, 2023
Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles
Kang Seung Lee: The Heart of A Hand pays tribute to Goh Choo San (1948–1987), a pioneering Singaporean-born choreographer who died of an AIDS-related illness at the age of thirty-nine. Goh performed and choreographed for prominent ballet companies throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States during his lifetime.
This exhibition presents new artworks created through extensive archival research, interviews, and collaborations. A series of drawings on goatskin parchment memorialize the relationships between Goh and his loved ones, such as his late partner H. Robert Magee, friend Janek Schergen, and sister Goh Soo Khim, while also commenting on historical and bodily erasure. Similarly, texts embroidered on Sambe cloth in antique 24-karat gold thread denote both mourning and reverence, honoring what has been lost and preserving memory in the aftermath of immense personal and community tragedy.
A central component of the exhibition is a single-channel video, created in collaboration with Joshua Serafin and Nathan Mercury Kim, that manifests a queer futurity imaginable through transnational inheritance and intergenerational memories. Loosely based on Goh’s neo-classical ballet, Configurations, commissioned by American Ballet Theater in 1981, Serafin, a Filipina dancer and choreographer based in Belgium, embodies a spectrum of emotional and physical states of belonging to express togetherness and kinship with Goh’s life and work. Likewise, KIRARA, a transgender composer and musician based in Seoul, takes inspiration from Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 38 (the score for Goh’s Configurations), to create a revitalized soundtrack for queer life and testament to the individual lives lived.
The Heart of A Hand derives its name from a poem by Mexican writer Xavier Villaurrutia (1903–1950). Woven throughout the exhibition are several passages by Villaurrutia and other artists of Goh’s generation, each transcribed in an American Sign Language font adapted by Lee from the paintings by artist Martin Wong (1946–1999). These texts, along with dried plants and seeds collected from various queer sites, draw new lines of connection among queer artists and lived experience across space and time.
Photos by Paul Salveson