A Mirror Woman, 2002. Korean bedcovers, mirror structure walls, 4 fans, cables, clothespins, Tibetan monk chant. Installation view at Peter Blum Gallery, New York, 2002. Photo by Bill Orcutt.

Kim Sooja at Peter Blum

Lilly Wei, 2002

New York-based since 1998, Kim Sooja here exhibited a new installation titled A Mirror Woman. The artist, who was much praised last year for her riveting video A Needle Woman, seen at P.S.1 and later at this year's Whitney Biennial, has said that in her native Korea, her work is sometimes not seen as art, since it so closely approximates the look of daily life. For this show, she presented the best-looking room of laundry you're ever likely to see: gaily colored silk bedspreads, 14 rows deep, pinned to clothes-lines strung across the gallery, whose walls had been mirrored from floor to ceiling for the occasion. The coverlets, elaborately embroidered with phoenixes, dragons, fruits and flowers — symbols of long life and fertility — were strikingly festive, with their high-pitched color schemes of fuchsia, emerald green, sour lime, royal blue, golden yellow, ripe plum, hot pink and cherry red. The mirrors extended the installation in endless, repetitive sequences.

Traditionally given as gifts to newly married couples, these salvaged wedding bedspreads are domestic objects that can be folded, wrapped and carried away, if need be; indeed, like tents, these covers can create a dwelling, an emblematic compound of sorts, in which women perform centuries-old, conventional domestic tasks, like hanging out the wash, attending to fabrics they have woven and embellished in considered acts of art and meditation. "A fundamental site," the artist says, "these bedcovers refer to marriage beds and shrouds, birth and death, love and pain, hope and despair, sleep and awakenings, cycles of incarnation and dreams, a delicate but comprehensive view of a woman's world."

Hung, with the exception of the first and the last two rows, in pairs, the bedcovers were strategically positioned. Entering the installation was a little like entering a painting. As you negotiated the space, which resembled a maze, you had to choose your route, your subsequent progress gently controlled in a ritual of passage both profoundly symbolic and quite ordinary. Small unobtrusive ceiling fans set the silk aflutter as if it were animated by chi, the breath of life. Encompassed by planes of color, you were soothed by the faint hum of recorded Tibetan mantras interrupted by the tinkling of bells — a spiritual version of pillow talk, perhaps. This was a comely, courteous kind of feminism, from an Asian Buddhist perspective seen lightly, self-consciously, through artfully arrayed mirrors.

— From Art in America, September 2002:

Lilly Wei is a New York-based independent curator, essayist and critic who writes for several publications in the United States and abroad. A frequent contributor to Art in America, she is also a contributing editor at ARTnews and Art Asia Pacific.