Time Out New York / Nov 26–Dec 20, 2009

Michael Joo

“At first sight, the work reveals itself only slowly.” Pity poor Michael Joo, an artist whose work might benefit from some lucid interpretation, but who must instead suffer such nonsensical bons mots. But pity, too, whoever wrote this confused gallery statement; when faced with an output as heterogeneous as Joo’s, incoherence is to some extent forgivable.

Among the components of Joo’s fifth solo appearance here are an extensive set of wall-mounted pairs of elk antlers; four paintings depicting toy gun components; a headless, flight-suited figure surrounded by a halo of video cameras; and a few more canvases and sculptures of zebras than seems absolutely necessary at first.

Still, Joo is well known for his anything-goes, mix-and-match approach to materials and processes, so it is unsurprising to see him exhibiting not only a sculpture (a zebra) but also a painted bronze replica of the mold used to produce it. He is fascinated by shifts in scale—the zebra appears in both true-to-life and pocket-sized variants—and by the ever-problematic interplay of the real and the not-so-real. Indeed, no matter how exotic his imagery becomes, the workaday actualities of manufacturing often seem to be his real subject. Along with the molds, prototypes, maquettes, diagrams and half-finished objects all have recurrent parts to play in his oeuvre—a practice that exudes ambition and intelligence even when it confounds.

Image: Michael Joo, installation view