Cody Choi: Mr. Hard Mix Master. Noblesse Hybridige
English / Chinese
Hardcover with dust jacket
24 x 29 cm
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.
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.