An installation by Korean American artist Michael Joo (b. 1966, Ithaca, N.Y.) will be exhibited in the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Pavilion this year as part of the museum’s “Perspectives” contemporary art series. “Perspectives: Michael Joo,” on view July 2, 2016–July 9, 2017, will explore the migration patterns of Korean red-crowned cranes. The monumental installation consists of a canvas—nearly 13 feet tall and 10 feet wide—and a hanging sculpture.
The subject of these two new artworks, created specifically for the Sackler, are endangered red-crowned cranes, which are significant in Korean culture. The cranes freely migrate through the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)—a pristine ecosystem of 160 miles of unoccupied territory between North and South Korea. Joo employs a combination of painting, sculpture, photography, digital scanning, printmaking and crane specimens in his investigation of the birds’ movements.
“As a sculptor I have been preoccupied with spaces and the time it takes for us to move through them, how the things we bring to them—from ourselves, to our objects, to our intentions and perceptions of them—can expand, how we locate ourselves in the present,” Joo said.
In the large canvas installation, Joo uses a silver-nitrate method common in his work. The piece is silvered using a chemical process derived from early photographic techniques. He uses three-dimensional ornithological scans from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where he participated in a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship residency in 2012. The abstraction is a mirrored image of two collected crane carcasses, representing both their organic form and the geometric form of their storage container.
The sculpture portion of the installation consists of brass rods suspended from the Sackler Pavilion ceiling. The sculpture’s linear patterns outline the satellite-tracked migration patterns of the red-crowned cranes across Korea and the DMZ. Each rod is dependent on the other for balance, and their lines represent freedom and the inescapability of instinct.
During the year that this installation is on view, the natural light from the windows will interact with the silvered canvas and the sculpture’s lines. As natural light hits them, their appearance will change depending on the time of day and time of year.
A website and video documenting the artist’s process will be available for both on-site and off-site visitors.
The Sackler Gallery’s “Perspectives” series presents large-scale works by internationally renowned contemporary artists. Previous exhibitions have featured the works of Lara Baladi, Cai Guo-Qiang, Y.Z. Kami, Anish Kapoor, Chiharu Shiota, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Do-Ho Suh, Hale Tenger and Ai Weiwei, among others.
“Perspectives: Michael Joo” is organized by the Sackler Gallery and sponsored by Altria Group. Additional funding is provided by the Sackler’s Endowment for Contemporary Asian Art.
About the Artist
Joo is a Korean American artist with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University. He has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. Joo represented South Korea at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001 and was awarded the grand prize at the sixth Gwangju Biennale in 2006. In 2012, Joo was a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellow, studying 3-D scanning and the relationship between art and technology.
About the Freer and Sackler Galleries
The Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., together comprise the nation’s museum of Asian art. It contains one of the most important collections of Asian art in the world, featuring more than 40,000 objects ranging in time from the Neolithic to the present day, with especially fine groupings of Islamic art, Chinese jades, bronzes and paintings and the art of the ancient Near East. The galleries also contain important masterworks from Japan, ancient Egypt, South and Southeast Asia and Korea, as well as the Freer’s noted collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler. The Freer, which will be closed during the exhibition, is scheduled to reopen in spring 2017 with modernized technology and infrastructure, refreshed gallery spaces and an enhanced Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Auditorium.