Get Your Kitsch On at Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics from the DPRK

This was my second visit to Granary Square’s House of Illustration in King’s Cross. The first being Female Comic Creators which had so much potential, but in my opinion was a bit of miss and lacked coherence.

When I read that this guy was showcasing posters, comics and packaging from North Korea it reminded me of the American student who was imprisoned for attempting to steal and export a propaganda poster…so you can say it had my interested piqued and I wanted to give the venue a second chance.

As you enter the first room with socialist style posters you’re given a sheet of paper with the translations explaining them, which worked really well. I won’t give too much away, but I loved the vivid, surreal and optimistic design that was refreshingly sincere. But there were too many pictures and not enough storytelling to transport me to Pyongyang (I realise for £8.25 that’s too much to ask). It might have been interesting to learn how the collector managed to get hold of everything and what his thoughts were (maybe that’s the book is for…).

A Google session taught me that he organised tours to North Korea and obviously has lots of access and stories from his trips and I couldn’t help but wonder why some of that wasn’t mentioned. If anyone could explain why there were North Korean Lady Di stamps, it was him.

I also had an issue that it was a bit glorified, you can argue that it’s not up to the curator to inform us about the current affairs of the country (and I’m not expecting posters of the labour camps) but with an issue like Korea you would expect a better backdrop. If you don’t want to go into that, fair enough. But why not go for the socialist realism as an dying art form?

All in all a nice snack, but it left me hungry for more – thankfully the surrounding area is full to bursting with restaurants like Caravan, Granted & Co and Dishroom, so plenty to satisfy your hunger of the stomach (not the mind!).

The exhibition runs til 13th of May at the House of Illustration. Make sure to also check out the the Lucinda Rogers exhibition about the gentrification of London’s East End.

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