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Indepth Arts News:

"Michael Joo: 60 Works Created Between 1992 and 2003"
2004-03-20 until 2004-06-06
Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art
Lake Worth, FL, USA

The Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to present the first U.S. survey of the work of second generation Korean American, Michael Joo. The exhibition opens March 20 and remains on view through June 6, 2004. Consisting of over 60 works created between 1992 and 2003, the exhibition includes sculpture, video, installation, and works-on-paper. The show also includes the world premiere of Joo's three-screen digital video installation, Circannual Rhythm (pibloktok), which was shot on location in Alaska. The exhibition is organized by Jane Farver, director of the List Visual Arts Center (LVAC) at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where it was recently shown.

Michael Joo, the exhibition, was covered in the February 2004 issue of Artforum. Says Francine Koslow Miller, "...Joo ... posits his own brand of intriguing and often darkly humorous questions about race, consumption, religion, and metaphysics, proving his shamanship to be far more than tongue-in-cheek." Joo's interest in science informs his art, which examines the effects of race and/or gender on identity, and goes beyond that to explore how science, religion, and the media all shape consciousness and knit together the physical and the metaphysical. It is about energy and waste, the visible, and what cannot be seen. Even his most abstract works refer to the natural world.

At the same time, his most "realistic" pieces can seem apparitional, uncanny, and abstract. "For the most part," says Michael Joo, as quoted by Daniel Birnbaum in the exhibition catalogue, "I am interested in playing with notions of physicality and the slippery nature of the identity of an object (or person, place, thing)."

In the catalogue, Birnbaum continues, "When I first encountered his work in New York in the early 1990s, it struck me as the most extreme example of an artist using new technologies and materials for his own deeply original and eccentric purposes. The specification of materials in his pieces reads like a new brand of concrete poetry ... His work was puzzling and seemed to me philosophically hermetic, yet visually I was won over immediately. This, I thought, is the world as we know it: the substances, the machineries, the elastic identities of a new ontology..." Joo's selection of working materials include such diverse choices as urine, natural and synthetic sweat and salt, an airplane fuselage, moose antlers, and performance based videos.

"This is a very lively and engaging exhibition," says Michael Rush, Palm Beach ICA director. "It is full of surprises and will open viewers eyes to extreme and intriguing possibilities." For instance, in his work God II, Joo places the figure of an Inuit man dressed for arctic conditions atop a refrigeration unit. The man's figure is made of clear resin, revealing a skeleton beneath the surface of his skin. Visitors unwittingly contribute to the burying of the figure by breathing, the moisture of each breath condensing into layers of ice.

For Joo, the Inuit represent the in-between; originally traveling across the Bering Strait from Siberia onto continental America, the Inuit were actually the first "Americans," and, in effect, the first "Asian Americans." Similarly, the coyotes surrounding the piece also act as a symbol for the Asian American experience; thought to be untamed and wild, coyotes actually live on the outskirts of human society, and move fluidly from the wild to the suburbs, mirroring the experience of traveling between Asian and American identities. "We are pleased to be able to present such an exciting array of art forms to our visitors," concludes Rush.

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