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Dabin Ahn

Dabin Ahn (b. 1988, Seoul, Korea) is a visual artist based in Chicago, IL. Ahn received his BFA and MFA in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has exhibited in various national and international galleries and institutions. Ahn currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Dabin Ahn creates two-dimensional paintings and sculptures that reference art history ranging from ancient Greek artifacts to antique figurines that are oftentimes presented along with his site-specific installations.


Ahn paints from images of Royal Copenhagen figurines he has archived over the years. He finds it fascinating that each figurine was hand painted and has a stamp and the painter’s signature on its underside, telling its own story. Something that is presumably mass produced and without traces of hand starts to feel more special and unique upon closer observation. There are no two identical figurines produced by Royal Copenhagen.

This inspires Ahn to remove his hand from his painting process and direct the focus to each image portrayed. He is usually only interested in one particular angle or a small section of a figurine, so the images are oftentimes heavily cropped. Paintings of cropped figurines lose most of its original context in exchange for a new conversation + uncanny narrative.


While Ahn is attracted to valuable objects like porcelain figurines, he is equally drawn to overlooked materials found in hardware stores. Some of his paintings are juxtaposed with the frames he builds using 2 x 4 lumber with stamp markings exposed. 


His sculptures create a visual dialogue between highbrow and lowbrow and question the value we place on objects. Ahn takes seemingly mundane, and frequently overlooked objects and materials and turns them into a trompe l’oeil sculpture. Similar to his paintings, Ahn decontextualize the objects portrayed and appreciate them as an artwork with a new meaning.

Infusing his artwork with a conceptual rigor, Ahn explores the currency and meaning we ascribe to objects of cultural production while playing with perception by challenging conventions of illusion and materiality.


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