Michael Joo, Born: 1966 , Ithaca, New York, United States

Michael Joo, Born: 1966 , Ithaca, New York, United States

Michael Joo is one of the distinguished artists who relish and provokes in equal measure, his work range from sculpture performance and video art to arresting large scale installations. He is conceptual artists, you wouldn’t be able to classify as one thing over another and his personal exploration of a wide range of themes from individuality, nature and politics.

Michael has become one of Americas most enigmatic artists. His work was able to transform his individuality into something more comprehensive and that is what the good contemporary artist can do. It is about material it is about new ways of looking, it is about deconstructing things. It allows you to spend time with it and you discover new things within it over time.

Joo was never destined to be an artist, born to scientists he was in art terms a late bloomer only entering art school in his early 20s. He was born in upstate New York and grew up there outside of Ithaca in the 60s. His parents came over from Korea in the late 50s and early 60s and ended up doing post-graduate work there.  So he grew up in a very active academic environment, but he never had this idea of becoming an artist.

The Pack consists of fifty plasticine sculptures
The Pack consists of fifty plasticine sculptures

Joo says, he was never told that he can become an artist, it was not until I took work in Viena, Austria doing very low-level science research work that I spent time with some scientists who would talk about art and culture and I felt a lot of urgency at that time.  I instantly started cold-calling art schools and ultimately got in.

His work is about the opportunity and potential in a way that if a studio is a void full of potentiality, almost a lab for experimentation. Michael’s work is an exclusive exploration, he just has a lot of instruments in his paintbox when he is putting them collectively and engaging in creative ways. A lot of times some in the studio have a group of objects placed out.

Kind of study tables to create forms and forms will keep on changing as I go back to them but almost like but many studios in and of themselves, sometimes the forms turn into something fruitful and sometimes they do not develop at all. He was grown up in such a rural environment as upstate New York and then almost free suburban Minnesota, he was exposed to a lot of nature and time. 

Improved Rack, Elk antlers, stainless steel
Improved Rack, Elk antlers, stainless steel, polyurethane-coated carbon steel

This work is from the series called improved racks in the environment when one of these animals descends a horn, it could go for distances before it drops the other horn. The performance of drawing them together again to one whole seemed kind of emotional. In nature, nothing is absolutely steady, perfectly, proportional, and so by condensing these antlers in two characters and rebalancing them with the milliner fields  I am kind of forcing my will or the artist will of life here. 

There is enough mystery in Michael Joo work, it is kind of very even work of being imaginative and creative at the same point. People react it to an ominous way this early to it because it is trying to explain sort of a being rather than a complete story. For Michael, the method of realizing the artwork is a bit of a trail that goes in various directions. 

As an artist, he will often subject work to some kind of extreme process whether is chemical or whether it is physical or even the process is born out of the laboratory or social experiment. Allowing it to be shaped being subjected to these things his art is about that sort of potential and opportunity and perhaps the result is not really anticipated outcome. 

Michael Joo burst into the art scene in the early 90s, the American business had a very little exposure to the Asian art world, though born and bred in upstate New York, he was seen as not considerably American, not quite Korean or not quite a blend of both. 

In 1993 he presented a large section of a plane from Korea war with his self-portrait as a woman on top of the side and at that moment Micheal Joo was a complete novelty because it was the first artist that was able to combine these diverse cultures, the western American and the Korean. 

Miss Megook , Michael Joo
Miss Megook , Michael Joo 1993

Michael has also found success in South Korea, in 2001 he represented the nation at the Venice Biennale once more reconstructing and deconstructing life in his usual style. While he simply crosses between these two realms he also declines cultural categorization.

Michael Joo - Tree
Michael Joo – Tree – 2001


Korean Or American?

Michael says, Being labeled as a Korean artist bothers him as much this the case that any labeling is a little troubling. It kind of resists the identification of Korean Americans, in many ways Korean it hits me as kind of ironic because it’s rather mistaken, and it depends on where you are delivering from. In some means, I see myself as fairly as absolutely international, and essentially American. 

Michael Joo is different because he is so Wedded to say that I am Korean or I am Korean American. He was born in the states, he was educated here and grew up here so he was in a way not transplanted and that has more positive on the work that he has made because it is less about saying I am a Korean man and I am an RS exploring different forms of identity in different forms of the practice of making art. 

Michael Joo,“Headless”, 2000.
Michael Joo,“Headless”, 2000.

Michael says, ” in many ways the best of the art, some of the barriers within I and we and you diffuse into a situation where intentionality process viewer and author escape and I think in that section there are serious questions that can be asked that do not get asked in particular other disciplines or systems.”