Michael Joo Biography

Nadine Dinter

Michael Joo’s artworks investigate concepts of identity and knowledge in a hybrid, contemporary world. An American artist of Korean descent, Joo’s artworks often blend and collide seemingly disparate elements; science and religion, nature versus human intervention, fact versus fiction, high and low culture and intention and accident are recurring themes in his work.  Using a thoughtful and provocative range of materials and media Joo juxtaposes humanity’s various states of knowledge and culture, addressing the fluid nature of identity itself, and prompting us to question how and why we perceive the world as we do.  In performance/video works, he has swam through a ton of MSG, waited in the wild for elk to lick salt off of his body, and walked against the flow of crude oil along the Trans Alaskan Pipeline. 

Buddhism is a recurring subject in his Joo’s art.  In the work Visible, the seated, transparent  sculpture of a headless Buddha reveals its skeleton and internal organs pitting empirical against metaphysical viewpoints.  In Joo’s Bodhi Obfuscatus (Space Baby) the artist scrutinizes and dissects the visage of a third-century B.C. Gandharan Buddha from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection using live surveillance cameras; evoking thoughts of simultaneity in the cosmic and earthbound; past and present; collective and individual.

Select solo and group exhibitions include: the Menil Collection, Texas; Serpentine Gallery, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.; Rodin Gallery (Samsung Foundation), Seoul; and MIT’s List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts. In 2001 Joo represented Korea at the Venice Biennale, and Bodhi Obfuscatus (Space Baby) won grand prize at the 2006 Gwangju Biennial.  Select collections include: Guggenheim Museum, N.Y.; Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.; Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y.; and the Samsung Foundation for Art and Culture, Seoul.