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Choi, Cody: Mr. Hard Mix Master, Noblesse Hybridige

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Cody Choi: Mr. Hard Mix Master. Noblesse Hybridige
Texts Bartomeu Marí, Su Wei


English / Chinese

Hardcover with dust jacket

24 x 29 cm

92 pp.
63 color illustrations

978-3-947127-27-6

40.00 Euro

 

Leaf through the book

 

In his series Noblesse Hybridige, Korean artist Cody Choi is pitting foliage from European Rococo paintings against natural motifs in the traditional Sagunja style. He overlays details from both, prints them on marble, and then adds the finishing touches in oil and cashew paint, both overplaying and undermining the works’ noble sense of richness and decor. Choi is well equipped to stage such subtle incongruities: he was born and raised in South Korea, then emigrated to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s, where he was schooled in conceptual art (studying and starting a friendship with Mike Kelley), before he went back to a much changed Seoul a decade later. Suddenly he found himself at home in neither culture, yet well-versed in both. So he started to offer both the hard mix and soft collisions between East and West in his art, which led him to the Korean Pavilion of the Venice Biennale 2017. In Choi’s exhibition at Beijing’s SPURS Gallery documented here, the 2020 paintings frame the stage for pieces in other media: neon, collage, and sculpture, including a shockingly pink, freely modeled bronze riff on Rodin’s Thinker. In the main gallery, a youthful couple strikes performance poses in carefully calibrated spotlights as part of the installation, adding another globally understood signifier to Choi’s perfect state of cultural hybridity.

 

HYBRID NOBLES
(excerpt from the text by Bartomeu Marí)


For centuries, East and West have looked at each other with interest, fear, respect, distrust, admiration, greed, ignorance—everything but innocence. The glances from one to the other sometimes meant benefits for both but more often sought to impose or pillage rather than to understand, learn, or gain insight. It does not seem to me that things have changed much during the era of high technology, new arms races, the post-Cold War and the new world (dis)order, where this “ocular” relationship has been based merely on the idea each side has of the other. Yet today certainly both parties in this relationship know each other better. Even if we are oblivious to history—both that of the other and our own—nowadays it is easier for the fascination of the images we perceive to generate respect and admiration, though sometimes fear and distrust.

The artist’s personal experience and the “glances” that East and West have been crossing since the second half of the 20th century are at the basis of Cody Choi’s oeuvre, whose production is now shown in Beijing. The works in the exhibition include his most recent pieces under the title of Noblesse Hybridige as well as representative works of various episodes in the artist’s career.

Noblesse Hybridige is, in itself, a double hybrid. On the one hand, it starts from the French saying “noblesse oblige,” which refers to the moral demands on those who consider themselves to be of a superior class, or those who have power, fame, or financial resources: privileges amount to, or are coupled with, obligations toward those who do not have them. The phrase has been imported into English directly from the original French, while formulations of identical meaning are found in Greek and Latin authors. The second level of hybridization in the title of Choi’s work is in the verb of the expression, which merges two concepts: moral obligation and hybridization itself. Choi invents a neologism that irreverently amalgamates these two notions. The paintings are also an example of aesthetic and cultural hybridization, since they consist of the “grafting” of traditional forms from a specific type of Korean painting—called Sagunja—on a background of motifs extracted from European paintings in a Rococo style. Where does Choi’s double interest in the notion of hybridization and the frontal—almost clashing—encounter between typical elements of Western and Eastern cultures come from?…

 

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In collaboration with Cornerstone Art