Jae Ko: Flow in Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

HOUSTON, TX (May 13, 2016)–For nearly two decades Jae Ko has worked in fiber, transforming ordinary materials like paper and vinyl cords into extraordinary sculptural objects. Her work ranges from discrete wall reliefs and small sculptures to monumental installations that evoke topography and movement. For her debut at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Ko will create a site-specific installation entitled flow 流, the newest iteration in a series she calls “Forces of Nature.” Inspired by visits to Newfoundland and the far northwestern reaches of the United States, Ko reconstructs the melting Tundra, with its floating, fractured glaciers. The room-sized sculptural relief is constructed from nearly one ton of recycled commercial adding machine paper that has been re-spooled and shaped to fit the architecture of CAMH’s Zilkha Gallery. The very nature of the material appears changed within the space as it in turn alters the gallery’s concrete, stark architecture into undulating surfaces of white formations that suggest imperceptible movements that come from the material’s play with light and shadow.

Born in Korea, Ko studied graphic and commercial design in Japan. She often worked with paper as a designer, but her desire to push the medium to unexpected places was the catalyst for a shift in focusing on her art. Her early works were inspired by the rich traditions of Asia–its calligraphy and traditional women’s hairstyles. Ko’s love of cultural forms as well as process and materiality merged during her formal studies in Japan. Her series of discrete malleable sculptural works made of paper were systematically dyed with traditional inks and graphite powder to create her own form of sculpture and drawing by playing with the lines of the paper. Manipulations with glue and water further distanced the material from its original intent. Her more recent works, while still seeped in a visual language of tradition and personal and communal histories, are now imbued with the artist’s love of landscape. Working laboriously with painstaking precision, Ko uses coils of commercial adding machine paper that she then unspools, rewinds, molds, and shapes. After moving from Washington, D.C. into the more remote island off of Maryland’s Western Shore, Ko has shifted from creating smaller works to monumental installations inspired by nature.

An artist who has described herself as “obsessed with paper,” Ko is as exact as she is intuitive when she works with her favorite material, responding to both it and the space in which it will inhabit. Ko will be working onsite at CAMH for ten days ahead of the opening creating her large, site-specific installation. Guests are invited to see the work as it progresses when visiting the museum during this period.

flow 流 is organized by Valerie Cassel Oliver, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.


Born in Korea, Jae Ko received her BFA from Wako University, Machida, Tokyo in 1988 and her MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Baltimore in 1998. She received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant in 2002. The artist now works and lives between Maryland and Arlington, Virginia. Her work is in the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. and numerous private collections throughout the United States. Ko’s site-specific installation Force of Nature, 白 Shiro was recently on view at Grounds for Sculpture in Township, New Jersey.


flow 流 is accompanied by an illustrated color catalogue that includes an interview between the artist Jae Ko and Senior Curator Valerie Cassel Oliver. The catalogue features images of the exhibition installation, as well as the artist’s biography.