By: James C. Kao
I experienced a lull of seeing art at galleries but snapped out of it by seeing Yukata Sone and Lisa Yuskavage at David Zwirner, Matthew Barney at Gladstone, Richard Serra at Gagosian, Do Ho Suh at Lehmann Maupin, and Tabaimo at James Cohan. Though the styles of the artists are diverse, a playful, child-like sensibility marked several of the shows.
This sensibility was most literal and apparent in Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star 1/5, which I have seen before but was happy to see again. The sculpture consists of an Eastern style home crashed into a Western style home, which is opened in the middle to show the cross section inside. It’s presented like a dollhouse, though the scale is quite a bit larger than the average toy. The details of the house and rooms are amazing: there are electrical boxes on the outside of the house and plates and settings in the kitchen inside the house. The aesthetics captivated my attention, and I desired to walk over the stanchion and play with the house. Do Ho Suh’s work explores cultural identity and displacement, and thus having an Eastern house crash into a Western house depicts his own history of his immigration to the U.S. from Korea. The Eastern style house is actually a model of his childhood home in Korea. To have one crash into the other shows that cultural displacement can be emotionally jarring and even violent because one’s surrounding can be quite foreign and unrecognizable. Fallen Star 1/5 is also a nod to the story of Dorothy in Wizard of Oz when a tornado transports her house. The piece presents the dual sense of jarring and fun because the sculpture itself is playful as a large toy-like object and yet parts of the inside are destroyed to demonstrate the impact of the two houses colliding.
I also wanted to play with Yutaka Sone’s Little Manhattan. This sculpture is a marble model of the island of Manhattan about the size of an average coffee table, with close attention paid to the details of each of the blocks and even the paths in Central Park. In one glance you can see the height differences between all the buildings in Manhattan. Once again I imagined having little figurines and placing them onto the sculpture to play out some story, but obviously I couldn’t. Little Manhattan is impressive physically and the artist even took helicopter rides to render the island to scale. Yutaka Sone’s works explore diverse materials, both organic and synthetic, and the tension in trying to create perfection.
Yutaka Sone, Little Manhattan. Photo by JCK.
A third exhibit that resonated with me was the Richard Serra sculptures at Gagosian. The last time I was inside a Serra sculpture was back in 2007 at MoMA’s Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years. I had the same feelings now as I did back then. I felt a sense of glee as I walked through the winding steel forms because I am completely immersed into an unusual environment. Though metal is usually thought of as hard, obstructive, restricting, and threatening, Serra’s curved structures actually are the opposite. The slanted walls create a flowing path that occupies my senses and creates a desensitized, tranquil space. The steel walls are curved, which disorientated me, contributing to my sense of disengagement with the outside world. The sculptures at Gagosian are even more impressive than the ones I saw at MoMA. These are larger, and they were arranged to almost connect together. The experience reminded me of walking through a maze and of the child-like excitement I felt when attempting to solve maze puzzles.
Richard Serra at Gagosian. Photo by JCK.
I had stayed away from Chelsea for a while because the last time I was there none of the works had inspired me, but this visit was different. Though the artists I saw were ones I already knew and, for the most part, liked, it was gratifying to see that I continue to engage with their works, which are also evolving.