Young Joon Kwak

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Artist Statement

My art practice embodies the spirit of the monster—the joy, pain, rage, laughter, and revelation of embracing the “other” identity that you had not chosen, but was forced on you, as a queer trans person of color. I focus on the body as a site of transformation and mutating subjectivity through a multidisciplinary approach, which includes sculpture, performance, video, sound, and collaboration. These diverse practices constitute a larger living sculpture—an assemblage that aims to resist stagnant categories, and engages in a process of continual becoming.

I manipulate the plasticity of materials including mud, plaster, pigmented resins, wigs, make up, body molds, and digital technologies in order to reveal hidden meanings and redirect their power to signify the amorphous materiality of the body, and the physical and social spaces we inhabit. These formal investigations mutate between figuration and abstraction, material and virtual, self and other, symbol and gesture.

With long-term participatory projects such as Mutant Salon and Xina Xurner, I experiment with heterogeneous forms of social engagement and knowledge production, in which revelations on the material and affective relations between bodies are a collective endeavor.  This collectivity expands the limits of understanding queer bodies beyond the fixed terms of gender and sexuality, and activates cross-cultural and cross-community dialogue that resists preexisting ideologies, and re-imagines the potential for movement and agency.





Master of Fine Arts, Roski School of Fine Art, University of Southern California.


Master of Arts in the Humanities,University of Chicago.


Bachelor of Fine Arts, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Solo, Two-Person, & Collaborative Shows


Mutant Salon: Exorcises. Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles, CA.

Attack Sustain Release Decay (Mutant Salon, Project Rage Queen, & Experimental ½ Hour) Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.


Born Again [Again]. Satellite Gallery, Seoul, Korea.

Mother Spill. Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles, CA.

Mutant Salon. REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA.

Xina Xurner & Narcissister (performance). Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

Mutant Salon. CALARTS, Valencia, CA.

Mutant Salon: Who Are Worth Our Love. Gayle & Ed Roski MFA Gallery, USC, Los Angeles, CA.


Slow Dance (collaboration with Christopher Richmond). Gayle & Ed Roski MFA Gallery, USC, Los Angeles, CA.


Mutant Salon: Beautython. Gayle & Ed Roski MFA Gallery, USC, Los Angeles, CA.

Un-Body/Rite of Trans-Mortality . Happy Dog Gallery, Chicago, IL.


Eating Without a Face. Roxaboxen Exhibitions, Chicago, IL.

Tears From My Pussy. Doomsday Mansion, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Select Group Shows


Mystery Theater Sports Bar (with Cabinet Magazine). Machine Project, Los Angeles, CA.

The Last Five Years. The Nightingale, Chicago, IL.

All The Instruments Agree. Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA.

Make Over. Southern Exposure, San Francisco, CA.

In a Plain Brown Wrapper. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Outfest Platinum Showcase. REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA.

Et Autres Identités… Pavillon Vendôme Centre d’Art Contemporain, Clichy, France.

AmazoNIGHT. Three Days Awake, Los Angeles, CA.


The New [New] Corpse. Sector 2337, Chicago, IL.

N (enter) S (Collaborative performance with Morgan Lee Gerstmar). LACE, Los Angeles, CA.  July 27, 2014

Outfest Platinum Showcase. REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA.


Demolition Woman. Guggenheim Gallery, Chapman University, Orange, CA.

Slippery Slope. Woman Made Gallery, Chicago, IL.


Suitable Video.  Regina Rex Gallery, New York, NY

All Good Things Become Wild & Free.  HF Johnson Gallery of Art, Carthage College, Kenosha, WI.

The Dragon Is The Frame. Gallery 400, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL


Space In, Space Out.  Andrew Rafacz Gallery, Chicago, IL

My Own Worst Enemy: Portraits of Self-Multiplicity.  Milwaukee Ave. Art Fair, Chicago, IL

Please Touch the Artwork. Chicago, IL.


Black & White & Read All Over. NP Contemporary Art Center, New York, NY.

Death Rites (collaborative performance program).  Roxaboxen Exhibitions, Chicago, IL.

Objects & Personification.  Chicago Filmmakers.

Select Awards


Teaching Fellowship, Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA.


Neely Macomber Travel Prize.  USC, Los Angeles, CA, IL.


3Arts Residency Fellowship.  Chicago, IL.


Critical Fierceness Grant.  Chances Dances, Chicago, IL.

Ox-Bow Scholarship for Sculptors.  Funded by the Joan Mitchell Foundation.


Artist Project Grant.  University of Chicago.

Research Travel Grant.  University of Chicago.


CAAP (Community Arts Assistance Program) Grant.  Department of Cultural Affairs, Chicago, IL.


Bergen County Artists’ Guild Award.  Department of Parks, Hackensack, NJ.

Artist Talk & Panel 


The Limits of Sculpture (Panel with Suzanne Hudson & Megan Luke). USC, Los Angeles, CA


Artist Talk at the Contemporary Art Workshop. University of Chicago, IL.



Ragdale Residency, Lake Forest, IL.


Ox-Bow Fall Arts Residency, Saugatuck, MI.

Harold Arts Residency, Chesterhill, OH.


ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions), Steuben, WI.



“Salon Talk: A Conversation with Patrick Jackson.”  Bad at Sports blog.  September 17.

“Salon Talk: A Conversation with Michael Ned Holte.”  Bad at Sports blog.  July 9.

“Nothing Great Gets Done Alone: No Coast & Roxaboxen.” AREA Chicago, #10: Institutions & Infrastructure. 2010



“Young Joon Kwak’s Trans/Feminine Visions.” Alicia Eler, Hyperallergic.


Mutant Salon/Xina Xurner interview with Carol Cheh & John Tain, Performance Now, KCHUNG.


“2012: The Year That Was.” Vern Hester, Windy City Times.

“Review: Young Joon Kwak & Josh Minkus at Happy Dog Gallery.” A-J Aronstein, New City.

“White Rabbits; Xina Xurner.” Vern Hester, Windy City Times.


“In Flux Samples: An Interview with Young Joon Kwak.”  Caroline Picard, Art21 Blog.


“This Week’s Picks.”  Lauren Weinberg, Time Out Chicago.

“Young Joon Kwak and Doomsday.”  Caroline Picard, Lantern Daily.


“In Conversation With Young Joon Kwak.”  Aay Preston-Myint, Monsters & Dust