Kavi Gupta presents a multi-media exhibition of works by Michael Joo. Three new sculptures of disincarnate body parts, alchemized from scans of historical works in the Smithsonian Archives, explore issues of representation, transmission, and transformation. One sculpture features the disembodied face of Anne Sullivan, best known as the teacher and companion of Helen Keller. Present are the features Keller never saw; absent is the mind that enabled both teacher and student to transform. Another sculpture features the fist of Abraham Lincoln, copied from a form originally cast on the campaign trail. What’s missing is the broom handle Lincoln had to grip in order to make a fist, after reportedly shaking so many hands that he lost muscle control. The third sculpture features the partial arm of an ancient Greek slave. Scans have revealed that, at some point, this section of the original sculpture was repaired using a cast from an actual human arm—authenticity hidden within artifice.
An accompanying audio-visual installation fills the exhibition space with the whisperings of the voice of a neuroscientist describing works that we cannot see. Designed to trigger ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), the audio illustrates the power of absent bodies to stimulate and affect bodies who are present, while the video, showing the back of the neuroscientist’s head while she’s talking, further explores disconnected presences and mediated realities.
A number of Joo’s existing works will accompany the new works in the exhibition and further examine their themes. Glass sculptures of paper and plastic bags from the Single Breath Transfer series examine the nature of breath by rendering its transmission into disposable bags as elegant glass forms. A series of silver nitrate paintings of architectural ruins, created in situ by exposure to the elements over the course of several days, examines how site is a place for encounters as well as explorations, and how time affects representation and reality. “For me, these works deal with the origins of painting not merely as something plastic, but as fragile, frozen moments emblematic of encounters at the intersection of time, material, and process,” says Joo. “It’s always the marriage of meaning and material that interests me—how we get there, and what possible other avenues of meaning we might find within our expectations of and responses to objects.”
“For me, these works deal with the origins of painting not merely as something plastic, but as fragile, frozen moments emblematic of encounters at the intersection of time, material, and process,” says Joo. “It’s always the marriage of meaning and material that interests me—how we get there, and what possible other avenues of meaning we might find within our expectations of and responses to objects.”
Michael Joo is a Senior Critic in Sculpture at Yale University and teaches in the Columbia University MFA program. His work investigates why we perceive as we perceive, and his non-linear, almost cyclical approach to his practice, together with his combination of scientific language and research, results in work that is a documentation of process. Joo is the recipient of a Warhol Foundation Grant, Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, among others. His work is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Foundation National d’ Art Contemporain (FNAC), Paris, France; Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; and Samsung Foundation for Art and Culture, Seoul, Korea, among others.