Young Joon Kwak (b. 1984 in Queens, NY) is a LA-based multi-disciplinary artist who primarily uses sculpture, performance, video, and community-based collaborations to reimagine bodies as mutable and permeable sites of agency. In their sculptures and performances, Kwak takes a fluid and hybrid approach to rethinking the form, functionality, and materiality of objects as a means of resisting the harmful ways in which marginalized bodies have been historically objectified. Kwak readily wields and recontextualizes materials and references from the ruins of consumer culture, politics, and art history, breaking free from known identities and expanding our imagination of new and continually evolving bodies, selves, and futures.
Kwak received an MFA from the University of Southern California in 2014, an MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago in 2010, and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2007. They are the founder of Mutant Salon, a roving beauty salon/platform for experimental performance collaborations with their community of queer, trans, femme, POC artists and performers, and lead performer in the electronic-dance-noise band Xina Xurner.
Solo exhibitions have been held at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles (2021, 2017, 2014); Michigan State University Union Gallery, East Lansing (2021); Cerritos College Art Gallery, CA (2020); Cloaca Projects, San Francisco (2019); Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Canada (2018); and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, CA (2018). They have performed at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2019); Serendipity Arts Festival, Goa, India (2018); Art Museum of the National University of Colombia, Bogotá (2018); Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2018); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); The Broad, Los Angeles (2016); and Le Pavillon Vendôme Centre d’Art Contemporain, Clichy, France (2016). Selected group exhibitions have been held at Hauser & Wirth, New York (2021), Tufts University Art Galleries, Boston (2021); Lyles & King, New York (2021); deli gallery, New York (2020); Antenna Space, Shanghai (2019); Gas, Los Angeles (2018); 47 Canal, New York (2018); Anonymous Gallery, Mexico City (2018); and Smack Mellon, New York (2016). They are the recipient of a Korean Arts Foundation of America (KAFA) Artist Award (2020), Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant (2018) and Artist Community Engagement Grant (2016), and Art Matters Foundation Grant (2016). Kwak was Artist-in-Residence in Critical Race Studies at Michigan State University (2020 – 2021), and Artist-in-Residence at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) in 2018. Kwak has taught and mentored at schools including California Institute of the Arts; School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s low-residency MFA program; University of California, Riverside; and University of California, San Diego. Kwak’s work has been reviewed and featured in Artforum, ARTnews, Artillery Magazine, BOMB Magazine, Hyperallergic, and LA Times, among others. Their next solo exhibition will be held at the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles in November 2021.