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Cody Choi
Episteme Sabotage – Corny Island

2014

$50,000

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 – Corny Island“ (the canvas: 162 x 130 cm; the total work: 192 x 130 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'], Gerhard Richter [‘Toilet Paper’] etc). In the specific case of „Episteme Sabotage – Corny Island“ he chose the 1937-painting “Weeping Woman” by Pablo Picasso (part of the collection of Tate Modern, London). This painting is certainly the most impressive, most colorful, and best known of a group of similar works that were derived by Picasso from his “Guernica”. And it is the last piece of a long row of paintings featuring weeping women that came to existence in 1937. It is depicting Picasso’s then-companion Dora Maar. She is portrayed as a woman, full of grief, crying due to the bombing of the town of Guernica by the German forces that wanted to support Franco’s regime. While, obviously, “Guernica” is a highly political, highly critical, and also heartbreaking work, that was meant as a strong accusation of the Germans, the portrait of the weeping Dora Maar seems to be rather a piece of intricate, beautiful, well composed art. This painting is not a sting in the flesh of, but rather – put very briefly – a product for the bourgeoisie, for the art buyers of his (Picasso’s) time. The handy format of the painting (61 x 50 cm) also contributes to this. When Choi appropriates this painting in 2014 and blows it up by factor 7 to 162 x 130 cm, he is underlining the product-quality of the work, the critic-less beauty of the composition and the mainly private emotion it can motivate in the viewer. The horrors of the civil war are left behind, the fascination for the art of Picasso (and its pecuniary value) come to the fore. And this is, in the end, a loss of meaning and significance. Choi puts his fingers in exactly this wound: we do not understand Picasso and his early intentions any more. His political stance and his activism as an artist and a member of society got lost. What was the finale of a group of particularly critical paintings, becomes (just) a colorful portrait of a woman that one could imagine of residing on “Corny Island”. And the wording “Corny Island”, that Choi stitched in a worn T-shirt of his and hung under the canvas, refers to an island that – as such – does not really exist, but that can be considered either being a mock up of Coney Island or of “horny Island” (and thus as the possible title of a porn film). In the end, Choi creates consciousness for all these mechanisms. In the West, we are accepting (and not anymore: questioning or truly experiencing his itchy energies) Pablo Picasso. A huge art market driven by speculation and orthodoxism, also fueled by Asian people, was developed, that sucked the power out of paintings like “Weeping Woman”. However, Asian people have an entirely different cultural background and art historical discourse that Western people. And this fact has been voiced by Choi, who thus sabotages the expectable knowledge of the original work and raises the question whether we should easily give in in the tempering forces of the market. "Episteme Sabotage – Corny Island" 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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