Tommy Kwak’s work explores the transience of landscapes and natural forms through ethereal large-format color photographs.
His work has been shown in NYC and Iceland, most recently in commissions for Louis Vuitton at their locations in NYC, Seattle, and Cologne, Germany. He earned a BFA in Graphic Design from CCA in 2002 and completed photography courses at ICP from 2006 to 2008.
Tommy grew up outside of Chicago and lived and worked in Brooklyn, NY for 13 years. He has been a member of Fowler Arts Collective in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and SONYA (South of Navy Yard Artists).
Awards, Publications & Exhibitions
Represented by Clic Gallery
(New York City, East Hampton, Marin, Montecito, and St. Barth)
2022, Artsted Observatory, Volta Art Fair/Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland
2022, Seattle (Pink), Louis Vuitton (Bravern store), Seattle, WA
2021, PX3 Winners Exhibition, Espace Beaurepaire, Paris, France
2021, Cologne, Louis Vuitton (Cologne store), Cologne, Germany
2020, Lower Manhattan (Pink), Louis Vuitton (Brookfield Place store), New York, NY
2018, Aurora/Waves, Flat File, Montclair, NJ
2016, In the Making, Center for Icelandic Art, Reykjavík, Iceland
2014, NURTUREart Benefit, The Boiler, Brooklyn, NY
2014, To Begin, At the Beginning, NURTUREart, curated by Sam Perry, Brooklyn, NY
2013, Curate NYC, curated by Janusz Jaworski, chashama, New York, NY
2013, All Together Now, Fowler Arts Collective, Brooklyn, NY
2013, Iceland, Schaefer’s Landing, Brooklyn, NY (solo)
2013, Prints Brooklyn, St. Joseph’s College Alumni Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2012, NURTUREart Benefit, curated by Kianga Ellis, Charlotta Kotik, Lawrence Rinder, and Herb Tam, NURTUREart, Brooklyn, NY
2012, Many Conversations (Northside Festival), curated by Peter Gynd, Present Company, Brooklyn, NY
2012, Space Half Empty, Fowler Arts Collective, Brooklyn, NY
2012, Represent Brooklyn, curated by Kennis Baptiste, TRA Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2011, Art from the Heart, curated by Jo-Anneke van der Molen, 25CPW, New York, NY
2011, Just Because, East Village, New York, NY
2011, Art=Relief, Studio X, New York, NY
2011, Winter Show, Greenpoint Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2010, Tropical Iceland, Center for Icelandic Art, Reykjavík, Iceland
2021, Prix de la Photographie (PX3), Gold/Architecture Photographer of the Year
2021, Fine Art Photography Awards (FAPA), Bronze
2021, ND Awards, Bronze
Artist in residencies
2016, SÍM artist-in-residency, Reykjavík, Iceland
2013, Artists Summer Institute (ASI), Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York, NY
I was never so happy to get a printer jam which was the spark for this collection. By iteratively pushing and pulling the print by hand, I used the printer as a tool to smear, overlay, and distort, resulting in a "Remix" of my lifeguard towers images.
This collection is a subset of my "Lifeguard Towers" series on Opensea, focusing on the 30+ towers on Miami Beach. I wanted to create a catalog of sorts making studies of each tower. To have them stand out, they were photographed with no people, using similar framing and long exposures to produce minimal sky and sea backdrops. In this methodical way, the photographs highlight the tower's bright colors and eccentric shapes revealing their unique personalities.
These images belong to a series documenting lifeguard towers on both coasts of the US, in South Beach, Miami, Huntington Beach, CA, and Montauk, NY. They were photographed straight on with similar compositions to emphasize the distinctive traits of each tower. The shape, stance, color, and signage anthropomorphize the structures with their idiosyncratic personalities.
This collection of 25 skylines was created while working on a commission for Louis Vuitton. After seeing my series of skylines colored in pink and purple hues they asked me to create a similar piece for their store in NYC. It was to be a skyline of lower Manhattan where the store is located. I walked along the river and took 100's of photos using analog, in-camera techniques to create the distortions, reflections and gradients. Around 10 images were presented of which 1 was printed and installed as part of their permanent collection. This image was also an NFT on Foundation. However there were many that I had a personal connection to and I found a collection to be the perfect venue to give them a home. The collection means a lot to me because it reminds me of moving to NYC in 2006, how it kicked my butt, but ultimately restarted my life after a low point. Now having moved away it reminds me what I love about NYC and what it stands for: diversity, creativity, and new beginnings.
This project started in 2020 when I was approached by Louis Vuitton to do a commission for a photographic image to be installed in their Brookfield Place store. The image was to be a skyline of lower Manhattan where the store is located. Using various materials and analog techniques in front of the camera lens, I altered the skyline with blurred edges, in and out of focus areas, and artificial color additions. This trilogy of 30 second animations arose from the hundreds of images I created for this commission. Each piece shows a different composition of lower Manhattan, all featuring prominently One World Trade Center. Soft and ethereal, the blurred edges of the skyline’s silhouette show the shape-shifting city, while the bright pink and purple hues reflect the resilience of New Yorkers. Slow and meditative motions elude to time passing throughout the day, light and shadow shifting, life on the streets with sounds of playgrounds and seagulls near the Hudson River, and boats slowly passing by on the water. The animations, when viewed as a whole, show a city in transition seen through its transforming neighbourhoods and population and in its constant rebirth from tragic events like 9/11 and the present pandemic. They form a portrait of a luminous city.
In 2008, I had been living in NYC for 2 years and starting to get into photography. I had vacation time from work and randomly I decided to go to Iceland. I knew nothing about it except the auroras and thermal baths, but it seemed like an ethereal, dreamy place. Coincidentally, I arrived in September in the middle of the financial crash. I was in Reykjavik and witnessed the frenetic energy of people at banks trying to withdraw their funds. But afterwards, I headed to the countryside and was literally astounded. I fell in love with Iceland and this first trip kickstarted my journey in landscape photography. Over the next 12 years, I went back once or twice a year, participating in 3 artist-in-residency programs, and making new, amazing friends. This collection was shot on medium-format film from 2008 to 2010. Each piece is 1/1 and 6 have unlockables for a 16x20 print of any image in the series. I hope you enjoy the images and it inspires people to visit this beautiful country.
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