Mia Sadowsky
Contemporary Art
Final Exhibition Paper
4/30/2012
CU Art Museum: Keeping it Real

The CU Art Museum (CUAM) is exhibiting a show titled “Keeping it Real- Korean Artists in the Age of Multimedia Representation.” The exhibit is small but makes an impact on the viewer and leaves one questioning reality. Though all the pieces are of different subject matter they all challenge our perceptions of the world and enable our minds to see the art from different perspectives. The artists featured in this show are Kiwoun Shin, Yong-Ho Ji, Jaye Rhee, and Yeondoo Jung, all whom have cultural ties to Korea. Each artist shows his or her stories and experiences through their work. The exhibition brings to light social commentary about the rapidly changing world and the contemporary state of South Korea. Recently in South Korea, artists have had greater opportunities to experiment with new technological material such as HD video and have had the freedom to express political opinions. Because of globalization and easy access to information through the media and internet, Korean artists speak to a global audience and convey universal messages that can be understood across cultures.
Two large glass doors lead you into the exhibition room. Though the room is small the slate colored floors, tall white walls and high ceilings make the space seem larger than it actually is. As you enter the glass doors into the dimly lit room your eyes are immediately drawn to an oversized, mechanical, saber tooth tiger type creature that looks like its ready to pounce. The creature is the same color as the dark hard floor, yet every muscle is visible through its hard metal exterior. This piece is entitled Jaguar 4 made by Yon-Ho Ji in 2008. The Jaguar is made from used tires and metal scraps. In his artist statement Ji claims that the science fiction monster is “…about the dangers of our obsession with science, technology, and industrialization…” After reading his statement I saw the metal jaguar as a symbol of globalization and the damaging effects that can come when people rely on the internet and technology rather than facing real life and gaining real life experience.
The next piece I was drawn to was an HD digital video instillation by Jaye Rhee titled Cherry Blossom. The piece was made up of five different screens; on each screen was a white background with pink cherry blossom petals falling to the ground. The piece creates a sense of tranquility and calmness with the slow simple motions of the petals falling, and traditional Korean music chiming in the background that is reminiscent of a Zen temple. As the viewer moves closer to the monitors, what was thought to be the pink cherry blossom petals is actually wads of chewed bubble gum that are being spit out by a number of different individuals. The peacefulness of the video is quickly destroyed once you find out that you are looking at chewed bubble gum. The viewers’ eyes and mind are tricked into believing something completely different from reality. Rhee makes the viewer take a closer look at reality and be more critical of the surrounding world.
On the opposite wall from Cherry Blossom is another HD digital video instillation titled, Approach the Truth-Astro Boy by Kiwoun Shin. Shown on a long digital screen is an action figure (Astro-Boy) being ground down and slowly turned to dust by an industrial machine. The video is two minutes and 12 seconds long and plays over and over again, first showing Astro-Boy being ground down and then in reverse to make it look as if he were growing from his own ashes. I was entranced watching the small particles of Astro-Boys’ own body gather at his feet and rise up to form a full figure once again. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong plays in the background and gives the video a somber melancholy feeling, like the happiness of youth and childhood is slowly disappearing. Unlike many other pieces in the exhibition the message of the video was clear and there were no optical illusions. Shin is commenting on how youth is effected by consumerism. As globalization spreads societies hold value in material products rather than relationships, family, and friends. Material products may fulfill some desires, but they are temporary. Shin also connects Astro-Boys process in the video of rising from dust and turning back to dust, to the existence of all things. In her statement regarding Astro-Boy Shin quotes “Ashes to ashes dust to dust” (Genisis 3:19). She goes on to clarify, “to explain the idea of birth, death, and emptiness is embedded in all the existences in our world…even in plastic toys.”
Taking up the entire right wall of the exhibition there is another work by Jaye Rhee titled Polar Bear. Side by side are two large rectangular pieces one is a video and the other is a photograph of the same scene that is playing in the video. The video shows a woman moving back and forth through a large bathhouse. The woman is facing away from the audience and looking at the back wall of the bathhouse. The wall that she is facing has an elaborate arctic scene with polar bears, icebergs, and frozen mountains painted on the tiles. Directly next to the video is a photograph of the same woman the same bathhouse, the same size as the video. It took me a fair amount of time to realize that the photograph was not a painting. The colors in the photograph are far more brilliant than those in the video, which led me to believe that it was a painting at first glance. The arctic painting on the tiles is reflected on the water of the bath and makes it look like there are brush strokes on the water, it is a convincing optical illusion. Once again the reality of the viewer is skewed.
This exhibition gave a glimpse into contemporary Korean art and left the viewer questioning his or her reality. I believe the exhibit intended to encourage its viewers to be more inquisitive of the world surrounding them, not to believe everything you see, look deeper, and be curious in life. The CU Art Museum is a great resource for art students and calming place to escape from the hectic world outside of its walls.

Art Historian Lecture- Amelia Jones

Amelia Jones Art History Lecture
On April 17th I attended a lecture by Amelia Jones titles “Queer Feminist Durationality- The Trace of the Subject in Contemporary Art.” Amelia Jones works in the art history and communications study department at McGill University, studied at Harvard, University at Pennsylvania, and received her PhD from UCLA. Jones is a prominent art historian who specializes in contemporary feminist art, body and performance art, and Dadaism. In her lecture on queer and feminist durationality she focused on looking at contemporary feminist art through a new lens, one that focuses on identification rather than identity.
Even if there hadn’t been a lengthy introduction listing Jones’s accomplishments and many successful publications, it would have been clear that Jones was a scholar and an expert in her subject. Each sentence was loaded with scholarly art historian language that threw me off. Jones read passages from her book and had little interaction with the audience. However, Jones’s voice was strong and identifiable in her writing. I was shocked by some of the terms she so blatantly used in her book such as cunt, dick, butt hole exc… Being a feminist art historian and critic I would expect her to refer to genitalia as vagina or phallus or something more professional, but I appreciated that there were no allusions to objectivity in her writing. I was also surprised by the way she said these terms with such ease, I found it entertaining that she could say “cunt” and still sound scholarly.
In her newest book Jones focuses on identification regarding the visual arts. She hopes that audiences can look at contemporary feminist art through a new lens of identification rather than through identity. Identification in feminist art as she explained would be how artists choose to define themselves. Identity on the other hand, is how an audience would perceive art works through a lens skewed by social norms and boundaries rather than focusing on the art itself. Jones believes that through this new lens of identification lies political potential and opportunities for empowerment in feminism. As she sees it feminist art has been unfairly frozen in time because of social expectations, but by defining feminist art through identification there is potential of reactivating new interpretations of art.
One example that Amelia Jones shared with us of art that can be viewed through a new lens is Catherine Opie’s “Self Portrait/ Nursing.” Catherine Opie is a gay woman who focuses on challenging gender roles and social expectations. In her Self Portrait “Nursing”, Opie a rather large woman, is photographed breast-feeding a baby who seems to be awkwardly large to still be breast-feeding. Being familiar with art history, I was immediately reminded of the Pieta by Michelangelo when looking at Opie’s photograph. The pose of Opie looking down impassively with her child held in her lap is a modern version of the classic Pieta. Because Opie is vocal about her sexuality and being gay, her nursing a baby challenges the conventional ideas about family. But by referencing classic works of art with her self-portrait Opie is making a statement about existing social codes that she will not allow to pushed on her as an individual.
Another work of art that Jones Discussed in her lecture was Mira Schor’s painting “Slit of Paint.” As Jones spoke about this painting it she described the feelings one might get from looking at the work rather than describing the visual aspects/ object. The painting by Schor is a pinky skin color, in the middle thick paint rises up from the canvas to form crusty layers of flesh. According to Jones the two fleshy lips of the vagina that protrude out of the canvas, double as the language of feminism. Even the name of the painting “Slit of Paint” shifts the viewers’ thoughts to the material being used rather than the object being portrayed. Jones wanted the audience in her lecture to imagine how the paintbrush glided sensually across the canvas and how it might have felt if perhaps you were the one being painted on. Focusing on feeling and the process of how art is made speaks to the concept of Dada- a subject that Jones is very much involved with in her studies. There is social commentary embedded in this painting because the subject of the painting is the female sex. Intersectionality –the focus on how various socially and culturally constructed categories of discrimination interact with race, gender, and class is a major focus of Jones’s work. In Mira Schor’s “Slit of Paint” intersectionality focuses on the sexual aspects of the piece.

Visiting Artist

Visiting Artist: Nao Bustamante

Nao Bustamante is a young artist from the Bay Area/ San Francisco who now teaches new media in upstate New York. Nao began the lecture with an emotional speech about how she feels that she arrived at being an artist by accident, by chance, that maybe she is not really an artists at all, but at the same time art is the only thing that makes any sense to her. After her speech she turned off the lights and “hypnotized” the audience. She told us to forget about our selves and our worries and told us to imagine ourselves as if we were her. Her goal was to create a more relaxed environment where people were comfortable to ask her anything, and although only a few people asked questions I think that she achieved her goal. While watching her films I felt comfortable laughing without judgment of the absurdity. By setting up this environment and treating the audience as equals she also projected her beliefs that there should be no hierarchy in art. Nao’s lecture was a performance from start to finish.

In Nao’s piece “Nao’s Under the Rug” she showed us that she considered herself a trickster and clearly had a sense of humor. In “Nao’s Under the Rug” she sat under a rug for about an hour and commented on the movment and actions of the audience around her. Although Nao doesn’t consider her art as a progressive timeline, but instead a collective body of work “Nao Under the Rug” was a great piece to show first.  In this piece she gave us a sense of her personality that corresponded to her body of work.

The trickster theme was continued when she showed us her performance on Joan Rivers show in a video segment called “Rosa does Joan.” Her goal of the show was to reach a larger audience (another reoccurring theme throughout Nao’s career as an artist). Nao created a made up character to perform on Joan’s show. Her character was Rosa, an exhibitionist who could squeeze her thighs together and have an orgasm on a public bus if someone was watching. As Joan asked her questions in front of a live audience she made up ridiculous stories of showing off her naked body in public- the audience, director of the show, and Joan all bought the act. I though it was amusing when she showed clips of her back stage taking off her wig and putting her Rosa act to rest.

Nao’s most shocking and certainly entertaining piece was her film of the attacking penis’s inspired by Jack Smith and Maria Martinez. The film was outrageous and entertaining. I loved that Nao did a live narration of the film in the auditorium, it added an unexpected element to the film and really made it a performance. As the film went on everyone around me was laughing, a reaction that I think Nao wanted and appreciated from the audience.

Clyfford Still Paper

The Clyfford Still Museum
Clyfford Still was born in North Dakota in 1904 and soon after he was born he moved to Alberta Canada with his parents to work on a farm. Still, is hands down one of the most prominent and spectacular artists of the 20th century. Clyfford Stills works change and morph throughout his time as an artist, from the mid 1920’s through the mid 1970’s. Though he has a massive body of work Stills objective to connect to the viewer remains present in all of his work. In 2004 Stills wife donated a large number of Clyffords’ paintings to the city of Denver to be housed in a permanent museum. To say the least Denver Colorado is extremely lucky to house such an extensive body of work that reflects the life of Clyfford Still.
The building housing the Clyfford Still museum is itself breath taking. The contemporary outward appearance of the building compliments the art that lies inside immaculately. Heather grey wooden logs stand vertically to make up a boxy high-tech outward appearance. As you walk up the stairs your eyes immediately hit a massive classic color painting of Stills. But as you walk around, and your eyes begin to adjust to the blasts of color in the paintings you become aware of the carefully placed electrical lighting and the natural lighting that filters through the ceiling. Every room is perfectly designed to house specific works of Clyfford Still, the layout of each room is obviously well thought out. One of the first rooms you walk into on the left hold some of Stills earliest works that range from the early 1920’s to the early 1930’s. These were dark years for Still, as he was greatly affected by the hard labor of working on his parents’ farm and the pressure of the great depression. The lighting in this room reflects on the gloomy dark feelings that you get from these paintings. Moving through the museum and forward in Clyfford Stills life the natural light brightens the room and the paintings become more cheerful with splashes of bright colors and plenty of space to move about freely. One of my favorite pieces done by Still was done in 1935.

The piece is a small drawing of a naked man with four horses behind him. The lines are simple and clean, and the presence of abstract expressionism is not quite present yet. The small horizontal lines in the background make up an eerie landscape. I love how this drawing is so simple and you can really see that this is the foundation that Still lays to build the rest of his work upon. It is interesting how the mans’ face in the drawing mimics the long shape of the horses behind him. I interpreted this drawing as a self-portrait of Still in his early life working on his parents’ farm. Its clear he is becoming weary of life on the farm, he is ready to move forward with his life and his art. The long dragging face of this man is a motif than can be seen in almost all of Still’s work, even in his most abstract paintings.

My second favorite piece is this oil on canvas done in 1938.


I think this piece, as of most of his work in the mid 1930’s clearly shows Stills transition from identifiable shapes to the classic abstract color works that Still produces for the remainder of his career. Stills’ long signature faces with the deep sunken eyes and cheekbones are visible in the brown rocklike shape in the center of the painting. Here the viewer can also make up his or her own story, you can ask yourself, “is this a portrait? A landscape? Is it a portrayal of a specific memory, or has this image simply come from Stills imagination?” This piece was placed in the gallery right before a room filled with abstract color paintings. I thought it was the perfect place for it as it clearly shows a shift in Stills work.

A third Piece that caught my attention was this yellow oil on canvas done in the late 1950’s.

When I reached the final room in the museum it was bright and felt light hearted. It was filled with abstract color paintings that Clyfford Still is most well known for. The paintings reflected a time in Stills life when he was free to do what he wanted and was already a well-known figure in the art scene of New York and San Francisco. This yellow painting stuck out to me because the moment I saw it, I had a vision of it hanging magnificently in my future living room. Though this will never actually happen, my longing to own it still lingers in the back of my mind. With all the paintings in this room, I was blown away by the variation in color. At first glance black seemed black and blue, just solid blue. As you move forward and examine the paintings closer, it is clear to see the enormous range of shades in what appears at first to be just one solid color. Vertical veins of bright color crossed horizontal shapes of dark matter, making the paintings jump to life.
Entering the museum and surveying Stills tools, it becomes evident that the vehicle central to his life and art was paint apparent by the jars of powdered pigment that he used to mix his own paint, trowels and palette knives in place of brushes. As with many abstract expressionist works, a picture can truly not do these paintings justice and I feel privileged to have been able to view them in person. The use of color and texture in Stills work comes to life as you meander through the gallery and are able to use more than your sense of sight to take in these larger than life paintings. As you close in on the sizable pieces the quality, consistency, appearance, and feeling jump out at you. Although you can not physically touch them all these features come together and before you know it your eyes are taken on a journey, initiated by the miniature mountains of inconsistencies and texture that symbolize Clyfford Still’s art. “I never wanted color to be color, texture to be texture, images to become shapes. I wanted them all to fuse into a living spirit.” -Clyfford Still

1. Give some basic information about your studies and fields of interest.
I am a junior here at CU Boulder, my major is Art History and I am thinking of picking up a minor in Ethnic Studies. I am hoping to do an extensive amount of traveling before and after I graduate college. I think understanding the art and architecture in different countries gives you an appreciation of your surroundings.

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