In haunting tableaus and otherworldly environments, Won Ju Lim unleashes the psychic dimensions of time and space. Inspired by Baroque architecture, science fiction films, and the urban landscape, Lim explores the intersections between reality and fantasy, real and imagined space. Her vivid and colorful rooms are filled with found objects, miniature models, and prefabricated structures that reflect, absorb, and transmit light. Shadows cloak her mesmerizing, spectacular interiors in deliberate mystery.

California Dreamin’ (2002) was recently acquired by SJMA and has never before been seen in the United States. It was inspired by sixteenth-century Spanish author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s fictional account of California as an earthly paradise and by the fantastical metropolises of classic science fiction films Blade Runner and Logan’s Run. Lim locates this work within mythical and historical contexts to conceptualize her idea of “futuristic ruins”—cinematic cityscapes that unite the classical past with Hollywood fantasies of the future.

Lim created California Dreamin’ while living abroad in Germany and feeling intensely homesick for Southern California. Her empty, multicolored Plexiglas constructions are bathed in soothing yet elusive imagery of Los Angeles. Picturesque sunsets, swaying palm trees, and glittering street lights dissolve as quickly as a desert mirage, casting this ethereal urban oasis into the imaginary sphere. By enveloping the gallery in cinematic wonder and spatial incongruity, Lim transforms clichéd images of the city into an experience of the sublime.

Also on view will be softly illuminated lightboxes from Lim’s series “Memory Palaces, Terrace 49” (2003), which create ghostly silhouettes of homes and trees perched along a hillside. In Piece of Echo Park, from the series “A Piece of...” (2007), yellow Plexiglas encases a topographic profile of this East Los Angeles neighborhood where homes sit above brilliantly colored melted layers of the earth. Both series reference Los Angeles’s hilly terrain and neighborhoods, thus geographically linking these works to the room-size California Dreamin’. In all these works, Lim explores the ideas of interiority and exteriority, illusion and allusion, expansion and contraction that give shape to memory and imagination.