This painting belongs to Michael Joo's Various Low Mass Stars series of silver nitrate paintings, which was derived from squatted architectural ruins, and created in situ by exposure to the elements over the course of several days. The series examines how site is a place for encounters as well as explorations, and how time and absence affect 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 and each other.”
In an interview for Studio International, Joo talked about his use of this unusual medium:
"I guess I first encountered it in the laboratory as a test for aldehydes but, technical stuff aside, it reappeared ironically for me light years later, or so it seemed, when I was in Venice (15 or 20 years ago, now). I had no intention of working in glass, but I was brought into some great craftpersons’ studios – I’m a big fan, of course – of all the pyrotechnics involved within the process of work [methods] and there are not many that can rival glass-making. Some of the glass mirroring I first came across was in an out-of-the-way glass studio in Murano. Watching the process [of treating glass with silver nitrate to create the mirroring] was incredible. It was created with no safety equipment and very gracefully done, quite cavalier – not only managing to not get silver nitrate poisoning, but done with grace and familiarity. I was drawn to the combination of the performative aspect of mirroring the glass and the chemical science; it was perhaps alchemical. Watching the traditional transformation process recalls the past, but also looks to the future of mirror in technology in the performative ballet that they had perfected."
At the heart of this work is the question: Why do we perceive as we perceive? Joo’s 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. Whether chemically treated, silver-coated or photo-based, Joo’s artwork combines a range of techniques associated with sculp-ture, painting, photography and printmaking. He continues to blur the boundaries between art and science through his investigation into ontology, epistemology and entropy; creating a cross-disciplinary and multi-dimensional dialogue to engage, question, meditate and explore. By juxtaposing humanity’s various pools of knowledge and culture, Joo addresses the fluid nature of identity itself. It seems as if the artist’s intention is to achieve the unachievable: to make us see an object in real life that is barely conceivable as thought alone.
Artist Background Michael Joo received his MFA from the Yale School of Art, Yale University, New Haven, in 1991, after graduating with a BFA from Washington University, St Louis, 1989. Recent exhibitions include: Perspectives: Michael Joo, Smithsonian Freer|Sackler Museum, Washington D.C., US, The Bronx Museum of Arts, New York, US, Michael Joo: Drift, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Connecticut, US (2014), Michael Joo, Palm Beach Institute for Contemporary Art, Florida, US (2004), and the South Korean Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale together with Do-Ho-Suh, IT. Joo was awarded both the grand prize of the 6th Gwangju Biennale, for Bohdi Obfuscatus (Space Baby) and the United States Artists Fellowship. Joo’s work is in numerous public and private collections, including FNAC, Paris; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Samsung Centre for Art and Culture, Seoul and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.