Washingtonians might know Song Byeok from the small show he mounted at The Dunes back in April. But those who don’t need only glance at reproductions of North Korean propaganda art, and they’ll have an idea of what his work is all about. The painter, who defected after a devastating famine struck the Hermit Kingdom during the 1990s, once painted the ubiquitous socialist-realist images of heroic North Korean workers that are mandatory in many public and private spaces throughout the nation. He has since turned his brush against the Dear Leader, sort of; painting Kim Jong-Il’s head on Marilyn Monroe’s body may not look like serious protest, but it clearly is, when viewers consider the sway that the late Kim’s cult of personality holds over the North Korean psyche. Byeok’s paintings are showing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre in conjunction with You for Me for You, a play by Mia Chung that follows two sisters in their determined efforts to escape and defect—a plot that Byeok knows all too well.
The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays–Fridays and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays–Sundays to Dec. 2 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW. Free. (202) 393-3939. woollymammoth.net.