Keeping it Real: Korean Artists in the Age of Multi-Media Representation – Anna Cook

 

On February 23rd, the exhibition Keeping it Real: Korean Artists in the Age of Multi-Media representation was opened. The entire exhibition displayed artists ethnically and culturally Korean, but it displayed highly technological works as well. It was nothing like traditional Asian art in the sense of medium, though there were several symbols and meanings that were more traditional such as the use of cherry blossoms. However, the most relevant dynamic of all the pieces was the concept of reality, what is real, what is an illusion, and what we perceive. We are forced to look closer at the art we see and construct it, and reconstruct it. These pieces challenge our modern world and what is means to exist, what existence holds and what enigmas keep us wondering.

The exhibition was sprawled out. The exhibits had a decent amount of space from each other. Our attention was first drawn to the center wherein stood a giant Jaguar (2008) made of used tired and stainless steel. The piece looked like a mass of black rippling muscle, with giant fangs and glowing green eyes. It was as though we were stepping into an old werewolf movie, but rather than a werewolf, the beast was a Jaguar. This animalistic and realistic representation easily catches our eyes as soon as we walk into the room. For a moment, we can be easily startled by it, as though the creature were standing right in front of us.  However, upon looking closer at the creature we are struck by how unreal it is. It is much like the creatures of myths. It’s fierce some form is absurdly large, muscled, with fangs that are at least two feet long. It looks vaguely like a jaguar, but there is something unreal about it. On the other hand, the piece is described as a “poetic and lucid statement about the dangers of our obsessions with science.” The futuristic nature of the piece gives it more of a mutated monster feel, a futuristic fiend.

The other pieces of Yong-ho Ji play a similar role. Each piece is animalistic, listed on his site from “mutant,” to “arthropods” to “human,” (Yong Ho Ji, Works). All of the works are made from the same process, using recycled tire. All of them have a distinct muscle-like structure, creating a powerful and bold creature. At times the beasts appear as though they are aliens, as if a new breed. Not much is said about the pieces on Yong-ho Ji’s site other than their names, and from this information we can only look at his creation. It as though Yong Ho Ji means to play God, or better yet, making a statement about playing God. These edgy animals are a physical representations of what is real, or what can be real in a soon-to-be future.

As we looking at Jaguar, I became quickly involved with another piece, Approach the Truth-Astro Boy (2006) that I was hearing from behind. “What a Wonderful World,” played on the system in a constant loop. I turned around and saw an industrial sanding machine grinding down an Astro Boy toy I stood and watched the video as this creation was burned down to dust. Still, I could not help but feel a calm as the music played. When the piece was finally completely obliterated, the video played backwards as if the object were being completely rebuilt from dust. It was as if I were stepping into an HD version of The Destructors1, as if the toy was simply being destroyed and remade for no specific reason, remove just to build and destroy and rebuild.  The piece was hypnotic, addictive to the eyes and ears. Rather surreal, the toy stood with confidence even as it was ground to plastic dust. According to the information at the side of the piece, this presentation shows both “respect and contempt towards material.” In this respect, we can see a contradiction, as if the concept is confused. We are unsure whether or not we want it to be destroyed or created, but either way we are intrigued. Even without a distinct purpose, we watch the image intently, satisfied with the complete destruction of this commercial object. Moreover, it plays on what it means to be real, or so to exist. It is essentially relating to the pointlessness, the consistent repetition that is life, that is humanity. This type of repetitive existence happens everyday, even in our “sensorial world.” Perhaps it relates to what a modern worker is, or perhaps it relates to how we treat our day-to-day lives, as if time is slowly degrading us. The meaning of this piece can easily be debated, with a heavy influence on personal meaning.

As I strolled over the room, I became enticed by Yeondoo Jung’s Adolescence (2010), a work that documents the camping trip of a large group of grad students from CU Boulder. At first glance, I felt the pieces were mediocre, merely a document of a happy time. As the group sat around the campfire many of them looked happy. However, while looking at the pictures, there was something distinctly somber about their expression. Many of the artists posing for the camera seem posed to look a certain way. There seems to be something unsettling about the image, a certain intensity, which brings us to gather more information from them. In all of the pictures used in this series, there is an elusive use of space which can come off as not only unsettling, but also mysterious and curious; as though it were a Pandora’s box2. We are inticed by the mystery of this piece, curious as to the real meaning to the expressions and wait awaits us in the darkness. We wish to explore this surreal camping trip further and unfold the mystery within. The darkness forces us to focus on person posing for the picture, each of them wearing an expression more and more somber. We are challenged in how we perceive the world, and also, how we perceive the world compared to a photographic image. We cannot tell if the models are genuinely posed to look tense, or perhaps if they actually had something hiding in the darkness. It is the enigma of what is really happening, what modern day photos mean when looking closer and what is real and what is not.

The next piece I came upon was titled Cherry Blossom (2012), created by local artist Jaye Rhee. When looking at the piece from across the room, all I could see was bits of pink falling onto the ground. Naturally, when I read the title, I figured that the pink speckles were in fact petals of cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms were and still are culturally significant in Korea and Japan, but in the West we stereotype this symbol along with the samurai, sushi, and the like. In the simplistic sense, the cherry blossoms are a symbol of celebration for spring; however, they also represent change and the fleeting nature of life. It is generally understood as a positive thing, many people celebrate spring by holding festivals in light of the cherry blossom. Regardless, after taking the time to watch the video more closely I came to notice something far less romanticized than cherry blossoms. Rather than being cherry blossoms, the pink objects falling were chewed up pieces of gum. The piece was surprising, startling. If I had not looked closer at it, I may not even have noticed this unusual representation of the cherry blossom.  It seemed the piece was more so a symbol of a modern day society, not caring or understanding the nature of traditionalism and it’s value. As the “petals” fell, I could hear the unnerving chiming a pipa, a Chinese type of string instrument, with highly contrasting tones. Like the other pieces from this exhibition, this work relates to the modern day world. In a sense it is a statement about what we perceive as valuable. Often we are bombarded with city spaces and scraps of gum, with a reality that is mundane. Perhaps though, this is a statement about the beauty of the metropolis, relating to how our existence today is still a beautiful thing. In a world driven by productivity, creating opportunities for people of lower class, perhaps letting go the traditional imagery is good for society.

Though I have only touched on these pieces, I have begun to understand how they create technological drama, and the doubting of reality. Upon glancing at each of these pieces, I was challenged to ask myself what was real and what was not. Moreover, I was brought to ask about the value of what exists and what could exist. In our future, we can see the possibility of mutant creatures, of a colossal emphasis on objects and materials, we can see the possibilities of enigma, and the change of cultural values. We the come to ask ourselves what existence truly is, or what we exist for. It seems in a society driven by production and service, we are driven to mass production and throw away traditionalism. The exploitation of science within this future will lead to a malformation of societies, such explorations such as the atomic bomb which have already been shown. In some sense, these modern realities are beautiful, magnificent. There is a distinct significance to them, but still the debate: are we real? And so, how do we exist?

 

 

Bibliography

 

“Yong Ho Ji.” Yong Ho Ji. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://yonghoji.com/index.html&gt;.

Greene, Graham. The Destructors. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 1990. Print.

“Pandora’s Box.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2012. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pandora’s%20box&gt;.


1 A short story from 1954 about teenagers who destroy the house of an older man, burning it down for no material gain, rather for the purpose of creating and destroying.

2 a box, sent by the gods to Pandora, which she was forbidden to open and which loosed a swarm of evils upon humankind when she opened it out of curiosity

 

Visiting Artist Janine Antoni – Anna Cook

Janine Antoni visited us at CU Boulder on March 6th, 2012. Having previously studied Antoni, I already had an admiration for her work, but meeting the artist in person was far more fascinating than her ART21 video.

Antoni began the lecture by discussing some of her earlier works, the ones, which led to her fame. Pieces such as Gnaw (1992) and Lick and Lather (1994) put Antoni in a celebrity status in the art world. Why we see this sudden popularity is partly attributed to Antoni’s “hands on” approach to creating her work. I use the term “hands on” loosely because, on the contrary, Antoni seems to use everything else. For Gnaw, Antoni formed 600 pounds of chocolate and lard and slowly “gnawed” away at the blocks. With each bite she took, Antoni saved the chocolate and lard for the creation of “heart-shaped packages” and ruby red lipstick. These items are all about seduction, about beauty and being enticed. We are seduced by our comforts, and by our comfort foods, but we wish to seduce others with our beauty. Using her own teeth, she showed how these things “gnaw” at us. Similarly, Lick and Lather is composed by a series of busts, self-portraits that Antoni shad slowly withered away by licking at or bathing with.

Her pieces are so personal and conceptual. They seem to be a blend of modernism and post-modernism. She creates pieces that are both conceptually sound and aesthetically pleasing, and with her hands on approach, she is actively involved with her art. She is no Jeff Koons.

In 2001, Antoni created the piece titled Cradle, which involved various scooping items placed within one another, similarly to a Russian doll. Despite the industrial aesthetic to this piece, there is a maternal softness to it. Upon reaching the smallest object we see a baby spoon, quant and petite. It brings the viewer back to the memories of being held, “cradled,” even. Antoni seemed to best identify with maternal imagery, often mixed with industrial aesthetic, juxtaposing her themes. It is similar to many other postmodernist artists who actively intertwine math and sciences with their art.

Antoni has also worked particularly closely to cattle. In her piece 2038 (2000), Janine submerged herself into a trowel of water meant for cattle. The piece is centered in a barn, and according to Antoni, it was difficult to achieve a picture that captured what she was going for. Despite the industrial agrarian setting for this piece, there is also a defined tenderness in it. Antoni’s expression is not only subdued, but unusually seductive. In this piece she acts as a mother, providing the milk to the cow that was once given to her by the cow. It is an abstract statement about what is provided to us and returning that to nature.

In another piece, titled Saddle (2000), Antoni use a wet cowhide to create a mold of herself crawling on the ground. The pose itself is quite submissive, indicating something animalistic. The dried mold appears like a phantom, unsettling and horrific: something as soft as skin used to create something so unnerving to the viewer and once again we see the juxtaposed forces of Antoni’s meanings.

One of Antoni’s more individual works, titled Touch (2002), is a DVD installation, which shows the artist crossing a tight rope over the horizon of the ocean. As Antoni went on with her presentation, I noticed that there was something distinctly different about her earlier works and her later works. As time has gone on, the pieces have become far more personalized, not just about society but about Antoni’s life.

The final piece Antoni presented was If I Die Before I Wake (mother’s hand meets daughter’s hand in prayer). The piece was made in 2004, one of Antoni’s latest works. The piece is an impression of her hands as well as her mother’s hands, pressed together as if in a prayer. Her hands are still young, with few wrinkles or veins, but her mother’s have become aged. The hands are so similar, but still so very different. They are separated by time, but held together by motherhood and their religious beliefs. In some ways, we could see the piece as overdone and even cheesy. In another sense though, its simplicity strikes us at the core and reminds us of our mothers or perhaps that we inherit our religious views, often via our mothers.

After the presentation, I met Antoni and gave her a handshake. She was a soft spoken woman, but she seemed rather edgy as well, similarly to her art. Though I am biased, Antoni is one of the most hands on artists of this generation, using motherhood, society, and seduction to make a statement. She is perhaps the most inspiring artist I have seen thus far and I am excited to see what she creates in the future.

 

 

Bibliography

 

“THE COLLECTION.” MoMA.org. The Museum of Modern Art, 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://www.moma.org/collection/browse_results.php?criteria=O:AD:E:8292|A:AR:E:1>.

“Janine Antoni Catalogue.” Fine Art, Decorative Art, and Design. Artnet Worldwide Corporation, 2010. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <http://www.artnet.com/awc/janine-antoni.html&gt;.

Visiting Artist Lawrence Argent – Anna Cook

On April 18th, I went to the Denver Art Museum to see Lawrence Argent. Many know this public artist as the man who created the giant blue bear outside of the Denver Convention Center. His work has been mostly centered in Denver, Aspen, and Fort Collins. Though, within recent years as Argent as fallen under the public eye, he has created pieces in Houston and Sacramento. Argent was significantly different than the other visiting artist I saw, Janine Antoni. His approach to creating art is using other workers, more so than himself. He comes up with the concepts and the designs behind his pieces, but uses teams of workers to create them. In some ways, his work is conceptual but he is, in my opinion, far more aesthetic based than conceptual and the reason for this is the concepts he means to create are our own. Continue reading

Xenophilicism and International Art

Often when discussing art outside of the Western spectrum, we discuss how our reactions to the pieces are xenophobic. Often contemporary pieces from other regions of the world are presented along side ancient pieces of art, without discretion. It is often not presented on a private, lighted wall as Western art is. DAM is a good example of this, when looking at the African Art pieces on display at the museum, we see ancient, traditional as well as contemporary African art all shoved into one small space.

However, we rarely discuss the issue of xenophilicism. I use this term to refer to an over romanticism of international art. It is essentially the love of art from a region without really understanding the culture or history from that region. This also relates to a pornographic obsession with one ethnicity. This is the polar opposite of xenophobic. These polar opposites are explored by the artist Wangechi Mutu who cuts out pictures of black women and puts them together in the form of a collage, creating a pornographic images and yet “savage” images, juxtaposing these opposite themes. With globalism an obvious discussion in our contemporary world, we are confronted with our lack of understanding.

With the recent classes relating to contemporary Chinese art, I have been considering these opposing issues. Our presenter, Michael Micketti, a collector of contemporary Chinese art is able to tell us many tales about the artists’ personal lives. He has claimed himself that he has a “passion” for contemporary Chinese art; however, his discussions involving Chinese art are generally based on the price of the art and how many pieces he owns. After twelve years of living and visiting China, his love of Chinese art has not motivated him to learn the language or learn more about Chinese history.

As rude and critical as I am being (and I apologize), I only mean to have Michael Micketti as an example. It is clear that he has passion for Chinese art, but without an understanding of their context, can he truly understand the art he is looking at? Without understanding it, there is no distinction or criticism for the techniques used. The presentation that he gave us was a stream of pieces, with little information regarding context or cultural consistencies. Is the price and amount of foreign art that one owns enough to make them a specialist? Or are they simply bragging rights? Essentially, with the rise of globalism, we must acknowledge that xenophobicism and xenophilism are both relevant issues to the international art spectrum.

Art for the Sake of Museum

I found the discussions involving museums to be particularly interesting. Museums really did not begin until the mid 19th century, or at least not the term “museum” itself. Museums seem to define art, rather than art defining the museum. But what do we acknowledge as art in a museum? An artist can quite literally put a urinal in a museum and have it considered art (Fountain of Duchamp). In my opinion, the museum seems to be the inspiration for many different styles of contemporary art. Minimalism seems only to exist because of museums. Since minimalism is all about the viewer and their relationship to an object or series of objects, we could quite easily have a minimal experience outside of a museum while observing a wall or a box. What makes the minimalist movement interesting to us the fact that it does exist in a museum. Furthermore, we almost seem to be making art for the sake of art. This generation is stuck between modernism and postmodernism, but with the contemporary art movement we have seen a distinct movement for art that conceptually questions art. It seems we are going down a slippery slope of concept, creating a purebred art form. The alternative “hybrid” art from would be focused in multiple subjects for artistic inspiration such as science, religion and the like. After Abstract-Expressionism, it seems that Postmodernist artists made art specifically for the museum context to challenge viewers to ask, what is art? Is this art because it is within this context?

We put so much importance in modern art, often acknowledging art with utility as “artifact.” We put a heavy importance in conceptualism, rather than aesthetic. I think these things are because of the existence of the museum, but whether that is a good or bad thing is debatable. I have found that in our generation is embracing aesthetic as much as conceptualism. For example, Ofili’s Afrodizzia that we discussed in class today is equally based in aesthetic and concept, and not only that, but is also created to evoke a lighter feeling in the viewer, a humorous feeling even.We are going to find significantly less lava lamps and toilet seats in our museums over the next couple of decades.

Clyfford Still: Life on Canvas – Anna Cook

The artistic career of Clyfford Still was exceptionally evolutionary. Like many artists from the post World War II era, Still’s work underwent a series of developmental and tactical changes, which we can see as his art progresses. We see Still’s style change from primarily realistic to surrealist to abstract expressionist, and in each of those changes we also see elements from macabre to lighthearted elegance. His work is as versatile and capable to change as his life, and while all of his pieces are unique, each one is common in the most basic sense. The evolution of Still’s work transcends the emotional boundaries of art, while also still being attached to the human essence. Like many of his contemporaries, Still used color, shape, form and space; however he especially used movement, verticality, and expression to indicate the complexity of human expression and form. Continue reading

Terry Smith Response – Anna Cook

Terry Smith’s definition of contemporary art is often contradictive. He goes into many definitions of what contemporary art is and what it means, much of what he says also relates to modernism, postmodernism, avant-garde and ect. He throws out many terms to emphasis different roles of contemporary art, many opposing factors. One of the most essential elements is the issue of time within contemporary art, considering the artist’s perspective on existing within modernity, traditionalism and yet “outside” of history itself. Arguably all of these elements exist together. Continue reading

Abstract Expressionism – Anna Cook

This reading discusses art post World War II and the political and cultural effects that were related to it. Beginning this article, we see a trend in pro-nationalism as America becomes a part of WWII, which caused a rise in artists creating American propaganda. Continue reading

Intellectual Profile: Anna Cook

My name is Anna Cook. I’m a Studio Art Major and a TAM minor here at CU. I have dedication to the graphic arts in particular.I have enjoyed learning about religious culture, feminist literature and global culture as well as Japanese culture and history. I have a wide variety of interests here at CU, but I would say the concept of “critical thinking” applies to my focus best. Although I am not particularly skilled in science or math, I still enjoy theoretical concepts discussed in those realms. Continue reading