Hein Koh

Sentient fruit and veg with distinctly human foibles.

Hein Koh viewed at a side profile in her studio with her sculptures
A variety of anachronistic sculptures in Hein Koh's studio
Three large sculptures of love hearts with eyes by Hein Koh
4 images

Hein Koh (she/her) was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1976 and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Education

Koh received her BA in Studio Art and Psychology from Dartmouth, and her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale. Although painting was her first love, after graduating she switched her primary medium from painting to sculpture – enticed by stretchy materials like spandex.

Exhibitions

In 2021 Koh opened Can’t Help My Self at Allouche Benias Gallery in Athens, Greece. Featuring paintings created during the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition commented on widely-felt expectations for self-improvement under lockdown.

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Practice overview

Hein Koh’s sculptures and paintings are as whimsical as they are witty - raising social commentary through a cast of anthropomorphic fruit and veg. Playing on the idea that parents chide children to ‘eat their vegetables,’ Koh’s sarcasm-suffused characters are far from symbols of healthy living. Broccoli, carrots, watermelons and a host of other foods are depicted crying, smoking and drinking to explore mental health in modern society. Themes of childhood and innocence are heightened by the cartoonish aesthetic, while bright colour palettes draw inspiration from the artist’s experience as a mother. Materials like spandex, glitter and vinyl are used to create soft sculptures with an enticing sense of fleshy plasticity.

Gender stereotypes surface throughout Koh’s practice, which sits within a movement of contemporary female surrealists including Julie Curtiss, Genesis Belanger and Emily Mae Smith. Her characters are often feminised and fetishised, wearing fishnets and heels while reclining ‘provocatively.’ Toying with the idea that women are simultaneously expected to be virtuous and hyper-sexualised, her characters are both wholesomely nutritious and sexually lewd. Despite the often serious undercurrents of her work, Koh relishes in a distinctly personal sense of humour — fully embracing the absurd surrealism of her plant-based practice.

“I think of my studio as my fantasy escape world. I need to have fun and derive pleasure from making my work, otherwise I wouldn’t be motivated to make it.”Hein Koh