Exhibition Paper: Keeping It Real

Keeping It Real: Korean Artists in the Age of Multi-Media Representation

            The show currently on exhibit at the University of Colorado Art Museum (CUAM), titled “Keeping It Real: Korean Artists in the Age of Multi-Media Representation,” showcases the work of eight Korean artists living and working in Seoul, South Korea, New York City, and various places in Europe. As the title suggests, the show presents contemporary South Korean art aimed at examining the human relationship with technology and the materiality of the societies we live in today.

            Upon entering, I am confronted by a larger-than-life hybrid creature. Jaguar 4, created by Yong-ho Ji in 2008, crouches menacingly, as if stalking you, his prey, ready to pounce at any moment. Massive fangs bared, this “science fiction monster” (Ji label) is very large and slightly mutated into a hybrid creature of Ji’s imagination. With its forked tongue, the jaguar seemed to take on a dragon-esque essence in the face. The sculpture is made from various types of recycled rubber tires, and it’s black color plays directly into its threatening appearance. Jaguar 4 is one of many “mutant” tire sculptures created by Ji, which span from other large cats, such as a lion, to horses, dogs, and even humans crossed with a variety of animals. These works express “the dangers of our obsession with science, technology, and industrialization, which have brought genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into our time” (Ji label). In a society hell-bent on constant and rapid advancement, we easily lose sight of the actual and potential negative consequences of our actions in favor of the convenience of new products and technology. In fact, very few “scientists and policymakers . . . maintain that they can predict with certainty the ecological consequences of inserting a gene from one species into another species and releasing the result of that miscegenation into the environment” (Endres 453). While Ji makes an obvious statement concerning human fear of GMOs in his mutated Jaguar 4, I can also sense the fear of the animal. Crouched, in a very defensive position, I see a wild animal morphing with man-made waste and pollutants. Not only are we interfering in the environment with genetic modification, but also with air and water pollution from our cars and factories, destruction of forests and their ecosystems from deforestation, mass amounts of garbage and waste, and more. Ji raises the often-avoided question of whether or not it is ethical to genetically modify plants and animals, as it manipulates the natural order of things.

            Just behind me on the wall, three large LED TV screens are mounted. The first two are 3D televisions playing a loop of Kiwoun Shin’s Reality Test – Take 3-3, 3-4, 3-5, 3-7, and 3-10. Shin, having lost several friends to car accidents, “recreates (and distorts) reality by manipulating the speed and contents of each incident” (Shin label). I donned my 3D glasses and watched as toy cars crashed into various glasses of liquid in slow motion on a table before people. Calm piano music complements the slow speed of the video, but stands in stark contrast to the shattering glass, spilling liquid, and startled expressions of the subjects. “The slow motion effects in the film stylize ‘reality,’ thus the effect is an amplified sense of violence since our naked eye cannot catch so much detail in real time” (Shin label). I believe that one of art’s main purposes and aims is to allow us to see things differently than we have before;

            A third LED TV plays a loop of Kiwoun Shin’s Approach the Truth – Astro Boy. The “work shows brand new consumer products being ground into a gray dust under an industrial sanding machine” (Shin label). This piece specifically grinds down a plastic action figure of Astro Boy, played with ironic humor to “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. I immediately understood the commentary on the material world; in many of our cultures, we have a natural reaction of shock and distress when a brand new object is intentionally and blatantly destroyed. Watching Approach the Truth – Astro Boy, I felt this exact sentiment, but within seconds was considering our obsession with the material and questioning why I had an attachment to a child’s toy I’ve never even heard of. In alignment with that, I began to recall visiting the store with my mother when I was younger and begging for a new toy that I simply had to have—and then abandoning it after a week or so. For me, Shin perfectly captured the notion of our object-obsessed culture and forced me to realize its roots even within myself.

            Video installations have proven to be a popular medium in the Keeping it Real exhibit as I approach Jave Rhee’s Cherry Blossoms. Five LED television screens are arranged along a diagonal, decreasing in size from highest to lowest. When viewing art, I prefer to examine the work before reading the wall text in order to form my own ideas and conclusions. Then, I proceed to read the artist’s intentions and explanations, and finally return to viewing the piece while considering my original ideas and my new impressions. As I watched the multiple channels play, I immediately assumed that the falling pink bits were petals. I actually chose to sit down on the ground in front of the piece, rather unorthodoxly, to spend some time poring over the “serene experience we imagine we might encounter on a nice spring day in a Zen temple” (Rhee label). It was not until standing again, reading the museum label, laughing aloud, and giving a closer inspection that I realized those falling pink bits were in fact pieces of chewed bubble gum. As I was sitting, I noted the serenity of what I thought were petals, paired with a light pop as each fell, and the off-key violin plucking. I found myself absorbed in an invented game, trying to guess where the next “petal” might fall, and allowing my eyes to dart frantically across the screens when each one did. Suddenly, after the knowledge that these light, pleasant flower petals are actually hundreds of pieces of chewing gum, covered in saliva and all, my sense of serenity had gone. I paid little attention to the little “game” that I was previously so engrossed in. As horrifically cliché as the phrase may be, you cannot escape thinking “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The drastically different emotions that the two views on the same piece are able to evoke from the viewer are humorous and enlightening on the condition of the human mind.

            Sun K. Kwak combined her signature media—black masking tape, vinyl, and acrylic paint—to create Untying Space_CU Art Museum, the largest installation in the exhibition. It is just one in a “series of mural-like designs featuring rhythmic and energetic lines temporarily tattooed on the walls and windows of the exhibition space” (Kwak label). The swirling, swooshing lines extend from outside of the gallery, seamlessly connect through the glass on the entrance door, and continue onto a large, curved wall inside. From a slight distance, when viewing the work as a whole, the streaks appear effortless, fast, more weighted in certain areas. Upon closer examination, I notice that Untying Space is anything but: the strict detail connecting vinyl with small pieces of masking tape reveal the tediousness and great effort that this installation required. Closer to the wall, I also noticed areas of masking tape that had been spray painted a dark blue, adding a new dimension to this piece. Regardless of the roughness when very near, step away and the strokes flow together smoothly; they are not rigid or geometric in style or form. In fact, they immediately reminded me of traditional Asian ink painting, but were also reminiscent of 1960’s Abstract Expressionism (Kwak label). In this fusion of Eastern and Western styles, Kwak demonstrates the ever “shrinking” world as technology allows faster and easier communication of ideas and information.

An amazing power of art is its ability to force you to ask questions—for you to leave your experience with it thinking and wondering about social issues, environmental concerns, mysteries of the universe, even questions of reality. The artists who contributed to the “Keeping it Real” exhibit at the University of Colorado Art Museum brilliantly utilized video installation and other multimedia mediums to accomplish just that.

Works Cited

Endres, Bryan A. “”GMO:” Genetically Modified Organism or Gigantic Monetary Obligation? The Liability Schemes for GMO Damage in the United States and the European Union.” L.A. Int’l & Comp.. (1999-2000): 453. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?collection=journals&handle=hein.journals/loyint22&type=Image&id=463&gt;.

“Keeping It Real: Korean Artists in the Age of Multi-­Media Representation.” CU Art Museum. University of Colorado, n.d. Web. 1 Apr 2012. <http://cuartmuseum.colorado.edu/exhibition/keeping-it-real-korean-artists-in-the-age-of-multi-­media-representation/&gt;.

Museum label for Jaye Rhee, Cherry Blossoms. CU Art Museum. 1 Apr 2012.

Museum label for Jaye Rhee, Polar Bear, Polar Bear 3. CU Art Museum. 1 Apr 2012.

Museum label for Kiwoun Shin, Approach the Truth – Astro Boy. CU Art Museum. 1 Apr 2012.

Museum label for Kiwoun Shin, Reality Test – Take 3-3, 3-4, 3-5, 3-7, 3-10. CU Art Museum. 1 Apr 2012.

Museum label for Sun K. Kwak, Untying Space_CU Art Museum. CU Art Museum. 1 Apr 2012.

Museum label for Yeondoo Jung, Adolescence #3, Adolescence #8, Adolescence #10, Adolescence #12, Adolescence #17, Adolescence #1, Adolescence #19. CU Art Museum. 1 Apr 2012.

Museum label for Yong-ho Ji, Jaguar 4. CU Art Museum. 1 Apr 2012.

Visiting Artist 2: Lawrence Argent

Denver Art Museum Logan Lecture: Lawrence Argent

            I was particularly excited to hear Lawrence Argent lecture at the Denver Art Museum because it was my first time hearing a local artist speak. Being from Colorado, most his large-scale installation works that he covered are accessible for me to visit within a relatively short drive. This is important to me because it is an entirely different experience viewing an artwork in person rather than on a Powerpoint slide; whenever I am near the University of Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, or Vail again, I plan to make a side trip to see his works.

Continue reading

Visiting Artist Paper 1: Aki Sasamoto

Niki Hale

ARTH 3539

Visiting Artist Lecture: Aki Sasamoto

            Aki Sasamoto is a young installation and performance artist. She was born in Japan, went to boarding school in England, and currently lives and works in New York City. Her visiting artist lecture at the University of Colorado began very unexpectedly; she typed, rather than spoke, her introduction. I immediately wondered if the entire lecture would follow suit, but she turned out to have a very lively attitude and a well-projected voice. Aki showed a list, A through Z, of potential subjects to cover for her lecture, and I was very pleased that we were given the opportunity to hear her speak about the topics that most interested us. The presentation was more of a dynamic interaction between her and the audience rather than a pre-determined lecture.

Continue reading

Minimal Art and Clyfford Still

I’m a studio arts major for photography, and in photo 2 this semester my professor, Albert Chong, has been referring to me as a “formalist.” I’m drawn to many photographs that he dislikes; photographs that have no apparent content or meaning, but are formally successful and aesthetically beautiful. I feel like minimal art is similar to this idea, and that is why I enjoy it. It’s simple. It doesn’t need to have some deeper meaning, you can just look at it and appreciate it for exactly what it is. I felt similarly about many of Clyfford Still’s completely abstracted color field murals. For me, the experience was about the visuals. The way the colors made me feel, which areas protruded and which receded, the weight and composition of the painting, the encompassing nature of the sheer size of the canvases. I’ve never viewed any minimal art in person, but I can imagine based on the class slides that my experience would be similar to the one I had with some of the Clyfford Still paintings. I thought this connection across two drastically different styles of art was very interesting.

Woman Scratches and Rubs Butt Over $30 Million Clyfford Still Painting

“A Colorado woman dropped her pants at a museum and rubbed her rear end all over a painting valued at $30 million, according to police.

Carmen Tisch, 36, was arrested after scratching, punching and, well, rubbing her butt against Clyfford Still’s “1957-J no.2” and causing an estimated $10,000 damage to the artwork at the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver. Police believe she was drunk during the late December incident.

“You have to wonder where her friends were,” a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office told the Denver Post.

Tisch was charged with felony criminal mischief on Wednesday and has been held on a $20,000 bond since the incident in late December, said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

The oil-on-canvas abstract expressionist painting was spared additional damage when the woman tried to urinate on it but apparently missed.”


Intellectual Profile: Niki Hale

1. Give some basic information about your studies and fields of interest.

I’m Niki, a junior majoring in studio arts with a photography emphasis. I’m primarily interested in fashion/editorial photography of female models, but in beginning my photography classes here at CU I hope to experiment with other focuses!

Continue reading

Smith Article

In simple terms, Terry Smith addresses the debate of defining contemporary art. He asserts that it is so difficult to define because it is current. Past periods of artistic production have been categorized by titles, themes, -isms; for example, Classical art, Renaissance art, Expressionism, or Modernism. Smith states “that the present cannot be grasped until it becomes, in some sense, a past” (page 253) and describes the difficulties of categorizing the wealth of contemporary art while we are still within this period. To my understanding, the most unifying idea amongst contemporary art is the idea of being in the present, our relationship with time, and how fleeting that is. Contemporary art is feared to be “periodlessness” and perhaps not categorizable like art movements of the past, but I agree with the notion that is seems premature and overwhelmingly difficult to look historically at something that isn’t history: the present.

Continue reading