Over a career that now spans two decades, Michael Joo has redefined sculpture, creating a body of work that transcends the seduction of technology and the easy answers offered by science to generate a set of questions that place humankind in the context of natural history. Joo, like artist Robert Smithson before him, engages with a deep sense of time, as well as with the cycles of creation and entropy inherent in both nature and human endeavor.
For this new project, created specifically for The Aldrich, Joo expands Smithson's sculptural notion of displacement by physically connecting the interior of the Museum to the surrounding landscape and its specific history. Drift is based on Joo's meditation on Cameron's Line, an ancient suture fault that traces the edge of the continental collision that initiated the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. The line—which runs north from New York City through Westchester County, passes through Ridgefield as it traverses Connecticut, then crosses Massachusetts into Vermont—is defined by a belt of marble that includes the famous quarries of Vermont. The exhibition poses Cameron's Line as a linear experience—but not necessarily in one direction—through both time and space.
Drift is composed of three major elements: the Marble Strata Room, an architectural construction featuring a massive displacement of Vermont marble that takes the form of a fourteen-hundred-square-foot chamber, whose chilled and frosted ceiling echoes the marble's crystalline structure; Back Sight (Quarried), a laser device that emits a beam that first penetrates the structure of the Museum, is reflected through the building's interior, and finally exits into the landscape directed towards the quarry that was the source of the marble; and Succession (Cored), a displacement of a cylinder core-drilled between The Aldrich's first and second floors that has been transposed to the Museum's rear stairwell. The three interrelated elements involve time, continuity, adoption, and transposition, ultimately reflecting back on the landscape and Joo's physical experiences while both researching and traveling Cameron's Line.
Drift is not a didactic presentation of facts as much as it is an experiential response to the landscape and a specific history that is preserved both above and below its surface. Does the sinuous line of marble—whose origins are 450 millions years in the past—have any relevance to those living and walking on its surface today? Perhaps pausing to consider the spatial dislocations and temporal distortions embedded in Drift will help us to understand that eternity isn't some later time, nor is it a long time; rather it is that dimension of here and now which time itself obscures.
Curated by Richard Klein and Alyson Baker.
Michael Joo: Drift is on view at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum from April 6 to September 21, 2014. The companion exhibition Drift (Bronx) will be on view at The Bronx Museum of the Arts from June 20 through September 21, 2014.