Michael Joo: Sensory Meridian (Elizabeth St. Location)

Thursday, Jan 14 – Mar 13, 2021

835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607

This exhibition is at the gallery's ELIZABETH ST. location. 


Kavi Gupta presents Sensory Meridian, a multi-media exhibition of works by Michael Joo. Three new sculptures of disincarnate body parts, alchemized from scans of historical works in the Smithsonian Archives, explore issues of representation, transmission, and transformation.

The sculpture From Without features the disembodied face of Anne Sullivan, best known as the teacher and companion of Helen Keller. Present are the features Keller never saw; absent is the mind that enabled both teacher and student to transform. All One Thing features the fist of Abraham Lincoln, copied from a form originally cast on the campaign trail. What’s missing is the broom handle Lincoln had to grip in order to make a fist, after reportedly shaking so many hands that he lost muscle control. The third work, All the Other, features a fragment from the sculpted arm of an ancient Greek slave. Scans have revealed that, at some point, this section of the original sculpture was repaired using a cast from an actual human arm—authenticity hidden within artifice.

An accompanying collaborative audio-visual installation fills the exhibition space with the whisperings of the voice of a social neuroscientist observing and describing human interactions that we cannot see. Designed to trigger ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), the quadraphonic audio illustrates the power of absent bodies to stimulate and affect bodies who are present, while the video, showing fragments of the neuroscientist’s head while she’s talking and graphical sound analytics, further explores disconnected presences and mediated realities. 

A number of Joo’s existing works will accompany the new works in the exhibition and further investigate their themes. Glass sculptures of paper and plastic bags from the Single Breath Transfer series examine the nature of breath by rendering its transmission into disposable bags as elegant glass forms. The Various Low Mass Stars series of silver nitrate paintings derived from squatted architectural ruins, and created in situ by exposure to the elements over the course of several days, examines how site is a place for encounters as well as explorations, and how time and absence affect representation and reality.

“For me, these works deal with the origins of painting not merely as something plastic, but as fragile, frozen moments emblematic of encounters at the intersection of time, material, and process,” says Joo. “It’s always the marriage of meaning and material that interests me—how we get there, and what possible other avenues of meaning we might find within our expectations of and responses to objects and each other.”

Michael Joo is a Senior Critic in Sculpture at Yale University and teaches in the Columbia University MFA program. He received his MFA from the Yale School of Art, Yale University, New Haven, in 1991, after graduating with a BFA from Washington University, St. Louis, 1989. His work investigates why we perceive as we perceive, and his non-linear, almost cyclical approach to his practice, together with his combination of scientific language and research, results in work that is a documentation of process. Joo is the recipient of a Warhol Foundation Grant, Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, among others. His work is in the permanent collections of the Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado; FNAC (Foundation National d’Art Contemporain), Paris, France; Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Samsung Foundation for Art and Culture, Seoul, Korea; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, among others.

Sound/Video Collaborative: Ayoung Yu, Nicholas Oh, Yixuan Shao, Avishag Cohen Rodrigues, and Mitch Blummer. Special thanks to Miya Masaoka and the Sound Art department of Columbia University School of the Arts and Garret Linn.  


Slideshow: Michael Joo, Untitled 4 (Single Breath Transfer), 2018-2019, mold-blown glass, 17 x 11 x 8 inches; Untitled 3 (Single Breath Transfer), 2018-2019, mold-blown glass, 16 x 11 x 10 inches; Untitled 5 (Single Breath Transfer), 2018-2019, mold-blown glass, 19 x 8 x 6 inches; Untitled 2 (Single Breath Transfer), 2018-2019, mold-blown glass, 17 x 8 x 7.5 inches.