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Cody Choi
"Episteme Sabotage - Are You Sure" / John Baldessari, Concept Art, radical, 1968

2014

$24,000

About

Cody Choi (*1961 in Seoul, where he lives and works) has been an artist and cultural theorist since the 1980s and since he flew, in his early twenties, from Korea to the USA, where he arrived in Los Angeles as an immigrant. He studied at CalArts with Mike Kelley and he was good friends with John Baldessari. As an artist in the US he has been exploring the cultural identity and relationships of authority in contemporary society. His paintings, sculptures, and installation works have focused on the clashes between the diverse cultures of our contemporary age, as well as hybrid cultures, and the endless newly-created social phenomena as a result. Having started his career in the United States, Choi experienced chaos and frustration in the conflicting ideas of the rational and emotional, visual and conceptual art, commercial galleries and art works, and the American and Korean culture. Based on his frustration, Choi‘s work has focused on the subject of finding the alien Asian identity in the American society. While such confusion and anxiety was a burden of suffering for the artist, he began to recognize them as beautiful experiences, which allowed him to discover broader and deeper meanings and to nurture his thoughts. Choi represented Korea at the Venice Biennial in 2017. His retrospective „Cody Choi. Culture Cuts“ – first shown at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (s) and the Musée d‘Art Moderne de Marseille (s) – was traveling major art museums and institutions throughout Europe, such as the University of Malaga, Spain and Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Germany, in Summer 2017. His work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions such as „The Thinker“ at Deitch Projects in New York (s), „L‘ART AU CORPS: le corps exposé de Man Ray à nos jours“ at Musée d’Art Contemporain in Marseille (g), Busan Biennale (G), „A tribute to Mike Kelley“ at MOCA Los Angeles (g), Gwangju Biennale (g), Arko Art Center in Seoul (s), or Today Art Museum, Beijing (s). The painting „Episteme Sabotage – Are you sure“ (the canvas: 59.5 x 59.8 cm; the total work: 77.5 x 59.8 cm) is part of a group of works that all have the main title “Episteme Sabotage” to which a subtitle is added. They all question or deconstruct the process of “Episteme” from an Asian-Eastern perspective, that is: the usual knowledge (understanding of “objective truths”) that we think we have. For these paintings, Choi appropriated selected works of art that belong to the widely known pieces of art history in our Western societies (Choi painted after well-known master-works by Eduard Manet ['Olympia'], Henri Matisse ['La Danse'], Edvard Munch ['The Cry'], Pablo Picasso etc. In the specific case of „Episteme Sabotage – Are you sure“ he chose a painting by the late John Baldessari that was executed by Baldessari in 1968. At the time, painting a grey square and just adding the words “pure beauty” in capital letters was a revolutionary act. After Abstract Expressionism with all its emotion and after Pop Art with all its glamour, it was a super-sober move by Baldessari to just state that he created „pure beauty“, respectively to question what that is. However, after 50 years of seeing and understanding such a work, it has lost all its punch. Radical corners and edges are worn down, connoisseurs of the scene accept such questions as solved and perhaps mainly ask themselves for the commercial value of such a work today. The work does not question the qualities of painting anymore. It does not create irritation about „how can an artist dare to do something like that“, it is just accepted as a major piece of conceptual art by one of the most important US-artists of the 20th century. But: this automatic acceptance is true only for westerners who grew up with the evolution of art after WWII. But for people from Asia, like Cody Choi, Baldessari’s piece is still a painting that raises questions, if not doubts. People from Asia grew up in a completely different art historical discourse. It is not at all clear for the Asians that Baldessari belongs to the absolute highest roster of artists. And thus Choi, who is part of both systems, poses the question: "Are you sure“ on a piece of a worn T-shirt in which he has stitched the questions and he thus re-opens all the discussion by putting it in a rather global context instead of just allowing it to exist in the Western context. The difference between the different cultures and backgrounds is made visible; Choi sabotages the expectable knowledge of the original work. "Episteme Sabotage - Are You Sure" has been shown in the institutional exhibition "Cody Choi. Culture Cuts" that has been shown between in 2015 and 2017 all over Europe (Düsseldorf, Marseille, Malaga, Chemnitz).

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