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LUX at Maryland Art Place

By Cara Ober, Bmoreart | November 12, 2012

MAP’s Annual Gala sets a steep bar for fundraisers in town. This year in particular was over the top, with white satin walls, paparazzi, twinkling lights, faux diamonds, gourmet food stations, excellent signature cocktails (ahem), and an excellent selection of the area’s best photography-based works. The event was well attended by all sorts of handsome patrons in tuxes and floor-length sequined gowns, and, although I did see a few folks sneaking by in jeans, on the whole the dress code for the event amped up the excitement. Ray Lewis’s dreamy sunset photographs were better than expected, hung in MAP’s outer hallway. The famous Raven, who agreed to co-chair the event, gave a short, heartfelt speech about what the arts mean to him, before the live auction.

If you couldn’t make the event, be sure to visit the exhibition and pick up a copy of the attractive, square catalog that includes all the participating artists. It’s beautifully printed and edited, and its archival value is a significant reason for artists to participate in such an event. I say this especially because a wide majority of silent auction labels, with excessively low prices for a first silent auction bid, were blank. If the audience at the event had done their homework, they would have snapped up one of the monumental works by Sondheim winner Ryan Hackett, a well-known image from the Copycat portrait series by Alex Wein, or a landscape image by Joe Hyde, Alan Sislen, or Christopher Saah.

The good news is that many of these works are still available at MAP, so if you’re an interested collector, make an appointment to view the exhibit. And if you’re not a collector, but interested in digital media and photography, you definitely want to visit and spend some time with the works on display. LUX is a rare opportunity to view a cross-section of skilled Baltimore artists working in a media that often goes unrecognized in a typical group show setting. The conversation that unfolds between these works alternately embraces and rejects a traditional approach to photography and is rife with art historical references. It’s a conversation that is difficult to hear over the din of a party, anyway.

On exhibition at MAP through December 15 – Work by artists Michel Anderson, Kelley Bell, Lynn Cazabon, Tamara Cedre, Larry Cohen, Deepak Chowdhury, Edward DeWitt, Jill Fannon, Matthew Fishel, JM Giordano, Vin Grabill, Ryan Hackett, Joshua Haycraft, Joseph Hyde, Tiffany Jones, Matthew Kern, William Knipscher, Nate Larson & Marni Shindelman, Jati Lindsay, Kim Llerena, Brandon Morse, Elle Perez, Joseph Parra, Barry Schmetter, Alan Sislen, Graham Slaughter, Christopher Saah, Sylvie van Helden, Tobechi Tobechukwu, and Alex Wein.

Legendary Photographer Elliott Landy

By Brooke Hall, What Weekly | November 7, 2012

Famed photographer Elliott Landy is coming to Baltimore on Friday, November 9, as a juror for Maryland Art Place’s Fall benefit and exhibition, LUX gala. Landy has graciously allowed MAP to use his legendary photo of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the face of this event and has donated a special edition print for the evening’s live auction.

Brooke: You’ve photographed many rock-n-roll superstars: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and the list goes on. Many photographers would kill to have that experience. How did you find yourself in that position?

Elliott: I was working on my own, taking photos of anti-war demonstrations to try and help stop the war and then gave the photos for free to underground newspapers. The rock and roll scene of that period was part of the underground movement – the movement to change the world into a better, more just place, so when I was photographing those concerts, I was really sharing the beauty of an alternative way of being.

I write about this in my book, Woodstock Vision, the Spirit of a Generation. Here is an excerpt: There was a terrible war raging in Vietnam in the Sixties. We, the Woodstock Generation, knew it was wrong and fought against it. We didn’t care what the social penalties were — we stood our ground and said, “No, this is wrong. I love my country and will not participate in this immoral action which destroys the principles on which our country was built. At the same time, music was reaching us. It got us so excited that we felt a deep part of ourselves which we had not been in touch with before. It was wild, and its wildness freed us from cultural restraints, from the uptightness that habits place on a human being. So people were free to be naked in public, to talk about having sex, to smoke grass openly with friends, take acid, have long hair, dress any way they chose, to experiment and explore life freely. I was a young photographer looking for a way to publish my work. I was a human being, hurt and injured by the injustice of the war. I was a person who smoked grass occasionally and loved to listen to music. When I was stoned, I always wanted to take pictures. I combined all these elements into an attempt to make my life good. I wanted to earn money, make beautiful pictures, listen to music, and help the world. Everything seemed to be changing. Established ideas and institutions, in every sphere, were being challenged. It seemed like the world was about to change profoundly because people would not be able to go on living the way they had been. It was a time of hope. The frontiers of consciousness were being expanded. We were exposed to Eastern philosophy, metaphysical books, psychedelics, rock music, and grass. Rock concerts were rites of passage, where people came to be together, to see the bands, and to get high from the music, the dance, and the drugs. The goal was to transcend the mundane vision of everyday life by reaching an ecstatic state. We were unknowingly using methods similar to those found in the traditions of indigenous peoples throughout history. Pop music had not yet become an international business and cultural phenomenon. Rock ‘n’ roll was outside the norm of society, part of the ”underground“ culture, and to be involved with it made you an outsider. A new group of people who believed in alternatives to the American Way of Life was galvanized by this new, free form of raucous music. A world of hippies, drugs, free love, metaphysics, and political activism was born.

The musicians themselves could as easily have been members of the audience as performers onstage, and often they did mingle with the crowds after the show. There was a true feeling of solidarity, a unity of purpose, and the purpose was to change the world. “We want the world, and we want it NOW!” was the anthem sung by Jim Morrison. We thought that the freedom to behave as we wished, coupled with the power of music to liberate the soul, would emancipate the world. 

Brooke: What attracted you to the world of photography? Who were your early influences?

Elliott: I saw beautiful things that I wanted to show to other people, ‘Look how beautiful this is!’ So I decided to use a camera to do it. I really had no direct influences on my photographing—on the nature of the photos I took. I had never been a fan of photography, never looked at much of it. I was just inspired to share things with people and picked up a camera to do it.

There is a bit of a mystical thing about it though, because when I was 13 in a summer camp, I was totally attracted to working in the camp darkroom. I had no interest in taking pictures at the time, but the moment I walked into the darkroom I fell in love with it and became the darkroom assistant for the entire summer, mixing chemicals, cleaning trays, helping new campers to develop film. Something about it just totally engrossed me. My parents had a Brownie camera and I took a few pictures here and there, not to take pictures, but just to get a negative to print. I see those pictures now and see that even then I had a sense for taking photos. They were just pictures of my two sisters, but I took them from a low angle, with a playset leaning off the the side—images, which if shown to me by a young person asking whether his/her photos were good or not, I would strongly encourage to keep doing it. Yet, at that time, I had no sense of wanting to take photos.

Brooke: Many of our readers are artists and photographers. Can you offer any advice for emerging photographers on becoming great photographers?

Elliott: In my opinion you can learn to be a good photographer, a rich photographer, a successful photographer, but “great” is something you either have with you in this lifetime or not. I believe the same is said about the other arts. However, it’s not important whether you are “great” or not, only that you enjoy yourself and if making money brings enjoyment that is as valid as seeing your image huge on the side of a building. In any case, it’s all opinion. I see things in galleries and arts centers that I can’t stand, yet they are considered good enough to exhibit. Many people don’t consider my work to be great. So it’s opinion, like tasting food.

Brooke: Can you explain how and why you make yourself an “invisible” photographer?

Elliott: I can’t be certain of this because I discovered myself doing it, rather than having thought about how to do it and then trying it out. I believe that by going into a quiet or still state, closing down what you are thinking about, you retract your energy field a bit. People, although they don’t know it consciously, are aware of each other’s energy fields. So by retracting yours, by shutting down your thought patterns and only focusing on the one thing that you are taking a picture of, you reduce the mental noise and people don’t feel you as extra noise in the environment. It’s like people are cars going down a quiet street outside your window at night. If you put a muffler on your mind, you won’t be as disturbing as you might be in a normal mode. Something like that—if you asked me again tomorrow, I would probably have a different answer.

Brooke: Not only did you agree to be a juror for Maryland Art Place’s Annual Fall Benefit Exhibition and Gala, LUX, but you also permitted MAP to use your famous photo of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as the face of this event (and you donated the work for the live auction). Is there a special reason you decide to become involved with MAP?

Elliott: Not a special reason. I was introduced to them by a friend and I am nearly always willing to help a good cause with my works. So it was a normal reason for me to be part of this.

Brooke: During the process of choosing the artists to be exhibited at MAP, did you discover a photographer or certain piece of work that stood out to you as exceptional?

Elliott: Yes, I had a few favorites that I really liked, but then again, it’s all about taste. So what is important is that you, the photographer, love your own work and love creating it. Whoever else likes it is besides the point. If it IS the point, then I wouldn’t call that person an artist. An artist works for himself primarily and then hopes others will agree that it’s worth looking at or being a part of, in some way.

Brooke: What are your thoughts on digital photography and video?

Elliott: It makes the cost of entry into the medium a lot cheaper, so more people do it. If you see these mediums as only artistic mediums, which should on be the province of “artists” then this is a drag because there is so much mediocrity created. But, if you see these mediums as part of life and see the purpose of life to find joy (inner and outer doings) then they are a true blessing for the human race. What matters is the fun that people have while doing this stuff. If they want to call it “art” and try to share if with others, that is a struggle, but just to take it is now easy enough. Before these digital mediums existed you had to really want to do them. You had to give up a lot in terms of time and money and learning, so if you weren’t inner driven to create imagery, you let it go as snapshots that no one beyond your family, for the most part, saw. For me, one of the necessary elements of something being “Art” is that it was created because the person had to do it.

Brooke: Can you tell us about your new app, “LANDY”?

Elliott: Landy is a new way of creating, controlling and experiencing music and video in a new and innovative manner. Played like a video game or musical instrument, for fun and in real time, the interactive program I have developed allows the user to merge his own music with the imagery so that the motion of the film matches the rhythms, beats and lyrics of the music. About 40 years ago I began shooting some films in Super 8 and playing records and tapes with them in my living room. Some of the chance synchronizations between my films (which were shot without sound) and the music were mind blowing! I wanted to share the experience, but no technology existed that would allow me to duplicate it. As the years passed and the technology improved, I was able to build the software I needed and in the process created a new art form that I believe will inspire and entertain for years to come.

Brooke: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Elliott: Yes, The Sixties photos for which I have become known were taken in a span of only 18 months or so. However, I believe the same ideals of both personal and social freedom and the spirituality expressed during that period were reflected in my later work with flowers (combining elements of impressionist painting with photography) and in the spiritual imagery of my family as we traveled through Europe for seven years in a forty passenger bus. I am especially excited by a new book, Love at Sixty, which is a collaboration with my wife Lynda. (We are negotiating with a publisher at this point.) It features photos I have taken of her in what I call a photo-verite style—pretty moments I see while living together, and her poetic prose which captures the spontaneity of life, the essence of womanhood and the wonder of a love we found in our Sixties.

Catch Elliott Landy this Friday at LUX. MAP’s Gala event, hosted by the Ravens’ Ray Lewis and Juliana Childress, will include music, a live auction of luxury items, silent auction of featured artists, strolling magician and mentalist, Dick Steiner, a culinary competition coordinated by Chef Jerry Edwards of Chefs Expressions and signature cocktails provided by Kettle Hill restaurant. The evening will exude ‘old Hollywood glamour’ with every guest receiving a luxury swag bag to complete the evening’s festivities. Original, limited edition Ray Lewis prints will be also displayed as guests enter this world-class exhibition and include lush imagery from his “Sun Diaries” series. Tickets are $250 each and can be purchased through until 5PM, Thursday, November 8, 2012. Tickets can also be purchased by calling MAP at (410) 962-8565. The Gala will take place Friday, November 9th at 7:00PM in the MAP galleries located at 8 Market Place Baltimore, Maryland within the Power Plant Live! complex.

Competition Heats Up at MAP

By David London & Theresa Keil, What Weekly | November 1, 2012

As the Maryland Art Place (MAP) is busy hanging the work of over 30 artists for next weekend’s LUX Benefit Exhibition & Gala, several of Baltimore’s top chefs are working with students at the National Academy Foundation High School and Stratford University to develop the menu for a variety of dishes that will be served at next Friday’s big event.

The chefs, among the best in our region, have donated their time and resources to work with five different student groups to make and present their unique dishes as part of a competition that will be held the night of the gala. Each student station or “culinary kiosk” will have a diamond drop competition. The student team with the most diamonds at the end of the evening wins.

But the competition, whose prize is pride alone, is only a small part of the reason both the chefs and the students have agreed to participate in this experience and share their creations with attendees at LUX. The bigger motivation is the opportunity to work with each other, learn from one another, and produce something new and exciting.

Chef Jerry Edwards, the President and Corporate Chef behind Chef’s Expressions, is coordinating the culinary aspects of the evening, and has gathered an A-list team to work with the students on this unique culinary experiment. Fellow chefs include Jerry Pellegrino from Waterfront Kitchen, Barry Fleishman from Innovative Gourmet, Gregory Rhoad also from Chef’s Expressions and Jason Jackson from Tatu.

Chef Edwards speaks highly of MAP and the times he has collaborated with them over the years: “We have catered many events for MAP in their wonderful space and have enjoyed the creative artwork we have seen there over the years. The space is inspirational to us to create events that capture the feeling the artists portray in their work.”

We stopped by a planning session last week at the National Academy Foundation High School (NAF) to get some insight into just what tasty treats are in the works for next week. Chef Edwards and Chef Fleishman were on hand, working closely with their student teams to choose their ingredients and develop the menu. 

“Crab Dip or Crab Cakes,” says one student.

“Or Cabbage Soup,” says another.

Chef Fleishman steps in and reminds the young chefs to think about balance, and suggests that “perhaps a Pork Croquet would be nice.”

The students at NAF are part of the ProStart program, run by The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The goal of the program is to help meet industry workforce needs by encouraging high school students to consider careers in the restaurant and food service industry.

The NAF High School is no ordinary school, a fact that is apparent upon stepping through the front doors. It houses four special academies designed around career-based education, including The Academy of Finance , The Academy of Information Technology, The Academy of Engineering as well as The Academy of Hospitality & Tourism.

Chef Edwards, who works with students at NAF’s ProStart program each year, reflects on the program and the opportunity it provides: “These kids are so appreciative of the efforts we put forth to make sure they are successful. I mentor four students every year for the Pro Start program, which is a national competition. Last year’s team was second in the city and this year’s promises to do even better and go to the states and eventually national. The feeling you get when you work with a young energetic person that wants to be a success and through mentoring you guide them to their full potential is so rewarding. Few things in life touch that feeling of pride.”

Chef Edwards team of students settled on two dishes. The first is tortelloni topped with butternut squash and Cippolini onions, which Chef Edwards assures me “will be a crowd pleaser.”

He continues, “The next dish is very avant-garde, we are making a goat cheese Alfredo instead of the traditional parmesan cheese Alfredo. Then we are filling small glass candle holders with the sauce and dangling a pinwheel of Chicken Saltimbocca over top on a baby bamboo skewer. The excitement we will create with the small plate dishes and huge flavors will be electric.”

To add to the experience, Pompeian Olive Oil Company is participating in partnership with its chef Jerry Pellegrino from Waterfront Kitchen and contributing olive oils and vinegars to the Student Chef teams for the evening’s competition.

The excitement extends far beyond the plate; the chefs and their teams bask in the joy and taste of their pending creations. The twinkle in the students’ eyes once the menu is selected looks strikingly similar to the twinkle in the eyes of the professionals. It is clear that these students have a passion for food running through their veins.

For Chef Fleishman, the opportunity to work with the students and colleagues on a project such as the LUX Gala, is the opportunity “to produce something great that everyone enjoys.” He cites the opportunity to collaborate, and provide his students with “knowledge, opportunity, and experience.” His team will be presenting a specialty soup along with a duck confit pastry.

With The LUX Benefit just over a week away, the next seven days will be filled with planning, prep, and eventually the actual cooking of each teams’ two dishes to be shared with guests on the evening on November 9th.

The LUX gala, hosted by the Ravens’ Ray Lewis and Juliana Childress, also promises music, a live auction of luxury items directed by auctioneer Jeff Heisey, silent auction of featured artists, strolling magician and mentalist Dick Steiner, with signature cocktails and specialized recipes by Kettle Hill restaurant and beer provided by Flying Dog. The evening will exude old Hollywood glamour with every guest receiving a luxury swag bag to complete the evening’s festivities. Original Ray Lewis prints will be also displayed as guests enter this world-class exhibition and include lush imagery from his “Sun Diaries” series. Aaron Henkin of WYPR/NPR Baltimore will be the evening’s emcee and will announce the winning culinary kiosk.

Tickets are $250 each and can be purchased through MissionTix until 5PM, Thursday, November 8, 2012. Tickets can also be purchased by calling MAP at (410) 962-8565.

The gala will take place Friday, November 9th at 7:00PM in the MAP galleries located at 8 Market Place Baltimore, Maryland within the Power Plant Live! complex.

Baltimore: The City That Bikes?

By Cara Ober, BmoreArt | October 24, 2012

If you are a cycling enthusiast and you haven't seen The Bike Show at Maryland Art Place, you're almost out of time. The multimedia exhibition curated by local artist and cyclist Dawn Gavin sprawls through all three of MAP's cavernous galleries. Besides the expected prints and paintings of bikes and bikers in action, the exhibit boasts a giant, colorful half-pipe with a blingy gold dirt bike that is interactive, and several other unusual (rideable?) assemblages that include actual bikes. This exhibit leaves you pondering a multitude of possibilities for this familiar household machine.

The Bike Show closes on Saturday, October 27. Artists included are: Chris Bishop, Faith Layla Bocian, Dan Perkins, David D’Orio, Eric Dyer, Ryan Humphrey, John K. Lawson, Joshua Wade Smith, Jean Francois Rauzier, and Kenk: A Graphic Portrait by Nick Marinkovich (Illustrator), Alex Jansen (Producer/Director), Jason Gilmore (Filmmaker/Designer), Richard Poplak (Writer)

Maryland Art Place Presents: The Bike Show

By Ron Cassie, Baltimore Magazine | August 15, 2012

Lance Armstrong wrote a book a few years ago called It’s Not About the Bike. And we get that. His story is about a journey back from cancer. But still, it is kind of, about the bike, isn’t it?

The Maryland Art Place thinks so.

The nonprofit center for contemporary art, with gallery space located at Power Plant Live!, hosts the “Bike Show” next month, an exhibition “centered on the relationship between people and their bicycles.”

As Baltimore’s bicycling community grows, MAP is showcasing artists and pedalists involved in Charm City’s evolving alternative energy culture. With philosophies around transportation influx, one of MAP’s hopes for the exhibition is that it will bring together bicycling and sustainability constituents from different backgrounds, including recreation, art, transportation, community development, health, and government around a common purpose.

MAP program director Sophia Rutka said the inspiration for the show came from MAP program advisory chair Dawn Gavin. An associate professor in Drawing and Foundations at the University of Maryland College Park, professional artist and avid bicyclist, Gavin is also curating the exhibition.

Among the artists: Eric Dyer, an associate professor of Animation/Interactive Media at UMBC, will present a video short, “Copenhagen Cycles;" sculptor Joshua Wade Smith is contributing a piece and performing as well on opening night; and Chris Bishop, of award-winning Bishops Bikes, will bring several custom-built frames to the exhibition.

The opening reception, scheduled for Sept. 13, will be co-hosted by Bike Maryland. The Bike Show is sponsored by Race Pace, Bike Maryland and the Department of Transportation, Bike Baltimore.

Mina Cheon's provocative 'polipop' art

Maryland Art Place showcases Mina Cheon's provocative 'polipop' art

Exhibit highlights Korean-born Baltimore artist's digital paintings

By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun | June 9, 2012

Mina Cheon is used to seeing things from multiple perspectives.

As a child in South Korea, the artist was exposed to two religious philosophies — Buddhist on her father's side, Christian on her mother's — and embraced a third as an adult, converting to Judaism when she married a Baltimore architect.

When she started studying in 1997 with the celebrated abstract expressionist Grace Hartigan at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Cheon focused on traditional painting methods. Today, her favored medium is digital painting, which opens up a whole new range of vantage points.

"The medium of today's world is the Internet," Cheon said. "The process I use is to take tons of images from the Internet. They lend themselves to becoming a piece. I'm playing with the idea of art vs. reproductive culture. Warhol took pictures from Life magazine and photocopied them; he did what I do with the Internet."

Different sides of her visual world are arrestingly displayed in "Polipop and Paintings," a solo exhibit at Maryland Art Place that spans more than a decade in the 38-year-old Cheon's career. All of the material reveals, in one way or another, her knack for approaching familiar issues from unexpected angles. These are large, even confrontational pieces that can stop you in your tracks.

Measuring 72 feet by 8 feet and occupying almost all of one galley is "15 Billion Years," Cheon's last major hand-painted project, a yearlong effort created for Hartigan and finished in 1998, when it was last displayed publicly. Painted with fluorescent acrylic, this is Cheon's fantastical vision of evolution, inspired by her readings of popular-science books.

Two other galleries at MAP are devoted to the very different work Cheon has been doing lately in a style dubbed "polipop" — a fusion of politics and pop art. Here, the artist confronts not just current events, but the way we learn about, or mislearn, those events through print, electronic and cyber media.

"Polipop" was coined by Sue Spaid, former director of Baltimore's recently closed-for-rethinking Contemporary Museum.

"Sue blurted it out when she saw the work I had been doing," Cheon said. "I immediately appropriated it. She said it rhymes with 'lollipop,' which I thought was great."

Such a cheeky term easily fits the large-scale digital paintings (each piece is 8 feet by 5 feet), which focus on politics, international relations and popular culture. Done in bold primary colors and often containing bursts of text, these items suggest propaganda posters, especially Communist ones. They deliver messages that are no less direct, if also witty or sardonic, and occasionally subversive.

Pamela Haag, the author and cultural historian, has described Cheon as a "mad scientist-artist" who conjures up with polipop "a world where your news comes with its own brand, slogan, motto and logo."

One of the digital paintings in the MAP show, "Remote Your Natural Disaster," depicts a Samsung TV with a four-part split screen, unsettling images on each. Your eye automatically switches channels.

In "Pokeman," Cheon references the Pokemon video game to poke a little fun at the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, as he appeared in the computer-generated action movie "Team America: World Police."

Using a computer, Cheon manipulates the found images in painterly ways. The computer file is then processed, blown up to full size and stretched on canvas by a firm in Korea. The result looks as if it has all been done by hand.

Cheon's polipop creations have drawn considerable attention. They were featured earlier this year in an extensive exhibit of the artist's work at Sungkok Art Museum in Seoul; there are plans for a showing next season at New York's White Box.

"It is wonderful to see women artists involved with technology, which is very rare," said White Box artistic director Juan Puntes. "Mina uses technology with social and political elements, as well as elements of beauty and desire. It's a very strong project."

The most provocative of Cheon's polipop pieces are those centering on President Barack Obama. Reality, distortion and myth all collide here.

"DIY Obama" riffs off an actual doll — "An Action Figure We Can Believe In" — that came white, ready to be painted. Cheon uses that object to cast the explosive racial and post-racial divide in a new light.

In "The Scariest," Cheon pushes more buttons, to bracing effect. It's a piece she started right after the president's announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The artist has depicted the scene at a White House lectern through a fisheye lens. A flash bulb has just gone off, obscuring the face of the president, but not a turban on his head.

Like/Dislike: Mina Cheon, artist

By Jaclyn Peiser, b the site | June 6, 2012

Growing up in Seoul, Mina Cheon thought everyone around her was an artist. "Having very culturally inspired parents, they took me to museums every weekend and threw parties for artists and exhibited art around the house."

But there was a different inspiration for Cheon's exhibition "Polipop & Paintings," on view at Maryland Art Place through June 30 (you can see her work under black lights from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. tomorrow). When she visited North Korea in 2004, she started creating work that "was a merger between geo-politics, global media and culture, and pop art." Cheon, 38, who lives in "lovely, historic, pollen central Bolton Hill," chats with b about eschewing cable TV, the work she's most proud of and more.

Worst pet peeve? Having to calculate tip. There is no tip in Korea.

Last concert/gig you went to? I just heard DJ Spooky a couple of days ago in Dumbo, Brooklyn, while he was launching his book, "The Book of Ice," and his multimedia concert was amazing — just mind-blowing sound.

TV shows you can't get enough of? Thursday night is TV night, so"30 Rock," "Grey's Anatomy" and"Scandal." I don't have cable, and I'm proud of it, I actually don't have a cell phone by choice and either people think it is lame or awesome.

Last great meal you had? Always Korean. The best place we Koreans go to is Nakwon on 20th Street. Americans go elsewhere thinking that expensive BBQ and fish tank makes Korean food authentic, but really, side dishes that are marinated for hours by hand is what makes the difference.

Your worst habit? Being concerned about things that are outside my sphere of influence.

Last movie you liked/disliked? "Spout" is a fabulous vampire movie by Alex Munoz. I'm hoping to have a recent favorite by going to the Korean American Film Festival New York (KAFFNY) this week.

Piece you are most proud of in "Polipop & Paintings"? I'm most excited to have my 72-by-8 feet painting from 1997-1998, "15 Billion Years of the Traveling Atom," installed and for public viewing. It's meaningful for me that this painting is showing alongside my new digital paintings.

Favorite quote/saying? "I am stupid before the other." — Avital Ronell

Favorite thing about Baltimore? My husband, Gabriel Kroiz.


Polipop and Paintings

A raucous pop-art exhibition paints the town red

By Chloe Helton-Gallagher, City Paper | June 5, 2012

If Mina Cheon’s current show at Maryland Art Place were a musical ensemble, it would be a marching band complete with crashing cymbals. MAP has temporarily retired the standard white cube of the gallery in favor of bold swaths of primary colors more fitting for the exhibit, titled Polipop and Paintings. Red, yellow, and blue walls amplify the already noisy character of Cheon’s large-scale works to a startling din. Images of Barack Obama, celebrities, and corporate logos shout from the walls like carnival barkers. The scale of the work, in concert with the bright hues and overt political sentiments, makes for an extremely loud presence.

Polipop and Paintings brings together two distinct but tangentially related bodies of Cheon’s work: a new series of digital paintings and an older suite of acrylic canvases the artist painted in 1997-’98 while studying at the Maryland Institute College of Art under Grace Hartigan. The juxtaposition of these two collections highlights the underlying influence of Cheon’s training as a painter on a career that for many years has focused primarily on new media and installation. In 2004 Cheon’s work took a decided turn toward the political. “This shift in my art was not coincidental,” Cheon says. “There was a natural progression that led toward this synthesis of studio practice and research with interest to current events.” ‘Polipop,’ a term the artist coined to describe her unique digital paintings, was the result of this shift.

“Polipop is an art world that intersects politics and pop art,” the exhibition literature explains. “It takes serious discussions surrounding geopolitics of global media culture and livens them up as accessible, eye-catching, fun pop-art.” Cheon cobbles together internet images to create works that deal with race, capitalism, politics, technology, pop culture, and the relationship between Asia and the United States. Rescaled and printed on canvas, the appropriated imagery is often pixillated, and the high-gloss surface of the giclée prints makes for a sort of vulgar, commercial aesthetic. The tone of the work varies, from silly to dire, but what links the pieces is a sustained attempt to address serious issues in an accessible manner, often employing a dark sense of humor.

In the first room of the gallery, a series of works starring Obama in a variety of different guises hangs on a wall painted school-bus yellow. There’s Obama as Rosie the Riveter, Obama as an action figure (based on a real paint-it-yourself toy manufactured by Jailbreak Toys), and a turban-clad Obama posing as a Bin Laden-like specter standing at a podium emblazoned with the words “The Scariest.” Across the room on a red wall is a string of canvases related to Asia, including an image of Tiananmen Square crowned with McDonald’s golden arches.

The dominant tones of red and yellow in this initial space are an interesting choice. Often employed by advertisers, they are the two colors first processed by the eye and sent to the brain. They’re eye-catching, literally. But they’re also agitating colors, which is why McDonald’s employs them. They draw you in but inspire you to leave quickly. (They also happen to be the colors of the Chinese flag.) The effect in MAP is similar—the space is visually arresting, but also uncomfortable.

The tone cools down a bit in the next room, with an accent wall of bright blue and a group of canvases lumped on the calmer end of the color spectrum. A predominantly indigo-toned piece titled “Capitalism and Contest” shows all the contestants from top reality shows in 2011, a goofy yearbook of instant celebrity. “Superwoman Complex” draws audible laughter with a sad but funny list of qualities expected of the obedient Korean woman, including “good in bed while being a virgin.”

The most successful pieces in the series are those that lean toward the hyperbolic. “Remote Your Natural Disaster” is arguably the starkest piece in the show, depicting a flat-screen TV showing scenes from recent catastrophes. It’s a harsh reminder of how easy it is to simply change the channel on the world’s plights, avoiding reality and averting empathy. On the more humorous end of the spectrum, a piece titled “Never Ending Story” shows Obama robed as Jesus, fist pumping and riding on the back of Falcor, the dog-like dragon from the 1984 kids classic.

Engulfing the back room of the gallery, “15 Billion Years of the Traveling Atom” is a 72-foot-by-8-foot behemoth painted nearly 15 years ago with fluorescent acrylic paint. Originally lit with a black light, MAP is showing the work for the first time in natural light (barring a special black-light showing on Thursday June 7 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.). Described by exhibition materials as “a celebration of popular science and a cosmic portrayal of the Universe,” it is psychedelic to say the least. It’s part Carlos Castaneda, part Busby Berkeley, part Lisa Frank. (Those who rocked a Trapper Keeper in their youth will likely experience a mild flashback.) Though it is difficult to make the leap between this twisting, organic composition and the hard-edged, digital works in the adjoining rooms, they share a sense of ambition and aversion to subtlety.

There’s a lot to chew on in this show. Cheon introduces a number of interesting ideas in an entertaining and accessible way. But with so many issues vying for attention, it can feel a bit cacophonous. The sonorous Times Square aesthetic of the show ends up producing an experience something like ringing in the ears. But hey, it’s not a real party without a noise complaint or two.

Polipop// Mina Cheon // Maryland Art Place

By Sara E. Barnes, Brown Paper Bag | May 8, 2012

Last Thursday, I ventured to the Maryland Art Place to hear Korean-American new media artist Mina Cheon speak about her exhibition on display, Polipop. The term “polipop” is short for political pop art and it is how Mina describe her digital paintings.

I’ve seen Mina’s work on numerous occasions, and it was really wonderful to hear her talk about her it. I think it was especially inspiring to young artists to see and hear the progression of her work towards the Polipop series. 

Referencing pop culture in her paintings helps to make them more accessible and reach a broader audience. Mina infuses references to movies, celebrities, and the Internet and addresses more complex issues between media and political conflicts within Asia and Asia’s relationship with the Western world.

Mina stated during her talk that the Internet creates its own unintentional political pop art. It’s true–think about memes and other manipulated images pervasive in our culture. In 2011, she collected the “image of the day.” Everyday she would save an image from the internet that was constantly shown that particular day. I love this idea, especially when you think about all the images you are bombarded with on a daily basis. It would almost be hard to choose just one! 

Mina’s paint­ings are bright, glossy, and oscillate between humorous and sad. Polipop is at the Maryland Art Place until June 30. I’d be sure to check it out!

Political Pop Art

Mina Cheon examines the relationship between media and political conflict.

By Cara Ober, Urbanite | May 8, 2012

After a successful solo show at the Sungkok Art Museum in South Korea, Baltimore-based artist Mina Cheon is bringing her politically charged pop art to Baltimore. Polipop, an exhibit at Maryland Art Place (MAP), opened Thursday, May 3. As in previous exhibits, the artist questions relationships between East and West, geopolitics, and the power of media on political conflict. Cheon's works borrow the look and language of advertisements and political propaganda posters, utilizing bold primary colors and images appropriated from the web.

Cheon was born in South Korea and travels frequently between Baltimore and Seoul. She considers herself an installation and new media artist, however the new exhibit at MAP addresses her early training as a painter and includes huge digital paintings (8x5 feet each) and her last hand-painted work, titled 15 Billion Years Painting. Cheon studied at Maryland Institute College of Art's Hoffberger School of Painting with the renowned abstract expressionist painter Grace Hartigan. In 15 Billion Years Painting, Cheon used florescent acrylic on canvas and lit the enormous 72-by-8-foot painting with black light. At MAP, the painting will be exhibited for the first time under natural lighting conditions.

Polipop will be up at Maryland Art Place from May 3 through June 30.

Technology, Politics and Desire: A Mental Dialogue with Mina Cheon

POLIPOP, Mina Cheon at Maryland Art Place, May 3 ‘12

By Irina Aristarkhova, Artist Organized Art | April 23, 2012

I fully surrender to Mina Cheon’s ability to control the “poster aesthetic,” with its beautiful clarity and shamelessness of propaganda. Writing here, therefore, is not a form of resistance, but rather, of surrender. From Cheon one can learn the attraction of contemporary art, with its strategic use of materials (one uses what is necessary, rather than a default medium) and therefore, its puzzle. As an artist who employs a variety of resources at her disposal, from research and performance to new media and painting, Cheon complicates for me the idea of “good”: good ideology, good aesthetic, good technology, and good sexuality. By not representing too neatly the divisions between “evil ideology” and “evil technology” versus “good community” and “good humanity,” Cheon refuses the latent or obvious technophobia. The artist mixes women and machines with a precision of a surgeon. This nexus is not a simple embrace of technology, however. It is a strategy of joining forces between those who have been denied full humanity – women and machines. Once again, flipping the stereotypical images through spotlighting them, Cheon draws on their power to reinforce her own message. The two-three color background is identifiably militaristic and fetishistic, but at the same time, archaic in its appeal to an ethnic tradition and spirituality (fully red, fully green, etc.). The artist spices up her aesthetic with a healthy dose of gender politics, making her images almost unbearable in how closely they follow the canon of gender stereotypes. Women, flowers, tanks, missiles, dragons, larger than life faces of political leaders, gadgets, – this is the imagery of the new generation. The question that comes to mind, looking at these incredible works: “Do these images mean anything anymore?” Maybe, we are in a virtual reality game? 

This work, seemingly loud and clear, requires silence and contemplation. Looking at them longer, I start feeling for Cheon’s characters. The empathy that her work evokes deconstructs the notions of simulacra and digital delirium. Empathizing with these works made me recollect how I observed Jean Baudrillard, the famous author of Simulacra and Simulation, and his wife on their visit to Seoul almost ten years ago. He was giving a talk at Ewha Woman’s University (part of the Media_City_Seoul Biennial, 2002, also where Cheon did her visiting professorship in 2011 as well as it being her alma mater). A high-tech country, as developed as France, but still feeling and being treated like an underdeveloped, as Cheon’s images demonstrate. The thinker seemed totally absorbed in himself, sitting alone on stage, reading his lecture on the topic of media and technology, without raising his head. A spotlight was on him, as if we were in a theatre, where one actor, the only actor, was reading his lines. A somber, dark, picture, of media and technology, which Baudrillard painted till the end. His wife sat in the front row, wearing high heels, elegant, tall (compared to those around her),and took many photographs with her small camera, directly shooting at our faces, pointing her camera into our faces, and looking as if being in wonder where she was. After the lecture ‘Korean girls’ (just like in Cheon’s posters? As well as those she is familiar with having gone to school in Seoul during various grades growing up whether they are actual girls or those who are imagined or projected) were screaming and asking for autographs as the Baudrillards passed by. They were photographing him at a close range, while his wife was photographing them photographing him. Baudrillard was performing ‘Pamela Anderson’ that evening, a star on a global circuit. Is there a difference, as far as the underlying aesthetic is concerned? This was, after all, the question raised in his own writings. Baudrillard looked intimidated, and probably, tired from the jetlag, shocked at the amount of technology and gadgets that people did not feel shy to use openly and a lot. Did he feel empathy? Cheon’s work, despite of being so direct and in my face, like those cameras, makes me co-feel, makes me feel compassion for her characters, who also often happen to be pop- or political stars. One can only wonder, what Baudrillard knew about South Korea before making that trip, and what kind of research he did about the country, the University, and those ‘Korean girls’ he came to speak to. As Cheon’s work also demonstrates, however, all those taken images could become one huge mess -a pile of representation, information, a confirmation of the evils of our mediated, twenty-four-seven, global simulacrum. And it is empathy for and politics of sexual, racial, and cultural differences, and not only technology of or desire for these differences that is so remarkable about Cheon’s representational choices. 

Mina Cheon is also your typical superwoman: scholar, professor, mother, wife, artist, friend… Should I say more? Her contributions to the general area of new media art and theory are unique, evidenced by the book Shamanism + Cyberspace (2009). Cheon’s art is spellbinding. These art works are an injection of the most irresistible blend: ideology, aesthetics, technology, and sexuality. Born in the USSR, I am particularly susceptible to this blend, and I am not going to resist it. After all, I did assemble my toy MIGs (plastic models of Soviet supersonic jets) and proudly displayed them on my piano as a teenager. This global quality of “superwomanness” that Cheon represents for us here is, however, not what we usually think. As we grow out of our teenage years, we realize that the superwomanness is not about flying faster than the speed of light, or spinning ourselves to turn into cyborgs. With the full power and confidence of a superwoman, Cheon flips the technological into political. Or, as she demonstrates through an image of the existing sisterhood between a North Korean woman and a South Korean woman, the technological has never been a part of the superwomanness for a woman. Apparently, for a woman, to qualify as a superwoman in the 21st century, she has to spin, spin, spin, and then (one, two, three…), turn into being: “1. beautiful; 2. smart; 3. modest; 4. devoted wife; 5. bring income; 6. make babies; 7. educate self & children; 8. keep household; 9. book keeping; 10. good to in-laws; 11. take care of elders; 12. faithful to country and people; 13. know how to make kimchi from scratch; 14. good in bed while being a virgin” (as stated in Cheon’s Polipop digital painting Superwoman Complex). Nowhere here does it say “restoring justice around the world,” “inventing a time machine” or, at the very least, “assembling supersonic jets.” This image of sisterhood, between an icon of the communist state, portrayed in her stereotypical pop cultural fashion (the green “sexy” military uniform), and a middle class woman of capitalism, portrayed in a supposedly positive stereotypical image of the professional suit (of a flight attendant, or some other kind of business assistant, perhaps?), is laughable. This is where I salute Cheon’s ability to make me laugh, rather than become angry or sad. I cannot make kimchi from scratch, but surely, I can make a “real” Russian salad! What is our alternative, after all? Not to be modest (like “Pamela Anderson”?), not to be good to in-laws (like “Desperate Housewives”?), not to educate ourselves and our children (pick your own alternative to good education)? What Cheon is making us understand through this sisterly laughter, is that this list is so seductive because some parts of it are what we often want. As any good lie, it has elements of truth. This list is also powerful because becoming a ‘bad girl,’ the alter ego of the superwoman, is about following the same list, just in a reversed fashion: do not be this or that. Between a virgin and a prostitute: where is the space for my desire? Transnational dialogue here is necessary, where we can put our national flags aside and carefully examine what is at stake for us in all these lists. Mina Cheon’s work is a huge step in this direction. Cheon and Obama: We Can Do It. I LOVE IT.

Impressive show by a rookie curator focuses on repetition

The Sum of the Parts

Impressive show by a rookie curator focuses on repetition

By Andrea Appleton, City Paper | March 14, 2012

The Sum of the Parts, the newest exhibition at Maryland Art Place, highlights artists who create their work “through the cumulative products of repetitive processes and actions,” according to exhibition literature. In the case of the four East Coast artists showcased here, that repetition is achieved through either highly meticulous craftsmanship or literal copying, with sculptural forms cast from the same mold. The intentional redundancy of the pieces creates a semblance of simplicity particularly, perhaps, for an audience primed as we are by the forces of mass production. But while, in general, accessible, the work is not simplistic, and it easily might have been, for The Sum of the Parts is the work of a fledgling curator.

For a decade, Maryland Art Place has provided an annual rite of passage for aspiring curators. MAP’s Curators’ Incubator Program, now in its 10th year, mentors novices as they move from exhibition concept to execution, complete with catalog. Last year, for the first time, just one curator—Nate Larson—was chosen, rather than several, and MAP has continued in that vein this year. The chosen curator, artist Amy Boone-McCreesh, thus had the challenge of filling all three rooms of the gallery space. She’s done so with aplomb.

The most immediately captivating pieces in the exhibition are those made by Maryland Institute College of Art grad Emily Barletta. Barletta uses inherently repetitive processes—crocheting and sewing—to create her work. In a series of untitled pieces composed of red thread stitched through paper and framed by white space, a great deal of patience and old-fashioned handiwork result in strikingly varied abstract “drawings.” “Untitled (10)” features rows of cross-stitches, replicated by the dozens. At the bottom of the frame, a cursive scrawl of stitches overlays these regiments of tight Xs; the effect is disturbing, like a roll of concertina wire unraveling across a trimmed lawn. “Untitled (6),” in which no one stitch crosses another, has an entirely different feel. Here tiny stitches follow one another in soothing waves, evoking the lines of a rake in a bed of sand.

Barletta’s artistic vocabulary—down to the limited reds, blues, and grays of her color palette—is borrowed directly from an age when working with yarn or thread meant woman’s work, utilitarian drudgery. Her pieces are not useful in the traditional sense, but they employ that old utilitarian tool—repetition—to create evocative art. Her large crocheted wall hangings, made solely of yarn, perhaps best demonstrate this. “Pelt” is a nestled conglomeration of convex crocheted red cups, each with a yawning hole in the middle. The piece has an organic feel, conjuring the nests of mud dauber wasps or barn swallows. And like those evolutionarily programmed creatures, Barletta has created enchanting complexity using time, toil, and the simplest of materials. The mere fact of her exertion imbues her pieces with a certain majesty, and the biological objects they tend to evoke—microbes, sea anemones, human organs—make them more beguiling yet.

Brooklyn artist Lauren Clay also creates her work by hand, though this is not immediately apparent because the lines are so perfect as to seem machine-made. Two of her pieces in The Sum of the Parts are playful wall sculptures, composed of hundreds of hanging strips of paper the shape and size of Popsicle sticks. In “Peggoty,” these strips are painted in smooth gradations of purple, and have a rubbery, tactile look. They drape over one another, like a waterfall as conceived by Jim Henson, flowing down to a base of angled forms where smaller pieces “splash” back up. The piece, unlike Barletta’s work, is utterly inorganic; it is, rather, dreamlike and lighthearted, though the result of intense labor.

A third piece, “Lonely Rainbow Picket Hoarding the Ten Thousand Things,” consists of a foam wedge painted a fluorescent salmon buttressed against a wall. A jumble of colorful, tightly packed geometric objects clusters beneath, protected or perhaps protecting, like a dam. These references to strength and shelter are perhaps an intentional homage. The catalog explains that the piece is a direct reference to pioneering feminist artist Judy Chicago’s 1966 “Rainbow Pickett,” a minimalist work that featured a series of six colorful trapezoids leaning against a wall.

Like Clay’s “Ten Thousand Things,” Nikki Painter’s work represents a bit of a departure from the theme of the show. But with the exception of “Play,” a large installation that greets viewers as they enter the gallery, Painter’s pieces also lack the punch of the other works in the exhibition. The Virginia-based artist traffics in imagery associated with construction (or destruction), creating chaotic, kinetic scenes composed of geometries both representational and not so. While her work includes repetition of a sort—angles, frames, triangles, and rectangles are common elements, with curves nearly absent—it is not the dominant theme. Painter’s works on paper—there are 14 in the show—are primarily collage and mixed media, blending the checkerboard patterns, neon colors, and disorienting composition of Op Art with some of the three-dimensional trickery of M.C. Escher’s drawings. While expertly rendered, the pieces at times seem like the notebook doodles of a particularly talented teenager, perhaps on the tail end of an acid trip.

Painter’s room-size installation, composed of three separate “scenes,” has more resonance. Like her works on paper, the installation is heavily angular. Two of the scenes are made up of boxes, tiles, chunks of wood, and structures that evoke ladders, windows, fences, even, in one case, a stylized boat. These are all painted in monochrome grays and whites, with mirrored tiles replicating angles from below. Painted rays, dwindling to points as if to indicate perspective, add to the sense of depth in each scene, and the odd clash of order and disorder lead one to wonder, What happened here? What will happen? Meanwhile, a third scene in the middle of the room commands attention. It is similarly constructed, but painted in fluorescent yellows, oranges, greens, and pinks. As a result, it has a more dynamic feel, a jazzy scene caught in freeze frame. The candy colors evoke a collection of toys, with the two gray scenes in the background like the distant memory of such.

In contrast, Philadelphia artist Jerry Kaba’s pieces are characterized by clean, uncluttered lines. His “Outmoded” consists of a pile of identical crayon-like clay and rubber sticks about the size of fence posts. They lie discarded, the mysterious nodules at one end divorced from any useful context. The pile extends out into the gallery floor, as if reaching for something.

Kaba’s “Tom’s River 1952-1990” is one of the most striking pieces in the exhibition. Twenty-one bulbous yellow clay objects the size of fire hydrants stand in orderly rows on a bed of soil. They are all identical but for minute differences in the cracking of the clay. They immediately bring to mind the regimentation of industrial agriculture, the genetically identical rows of corn in a field, bred to be precisely the same height. The title drives the point home: Tom’s river, with all its burbling unpredictability, has been replaced by an equation.

Artists prove that more is not less

The Sum of the Parts

Artists prove that more is not less

By Michael O'Sullivan, The Washington Post | March 9, 2012

For the uninitiated, Maryland Art Place can be a little hard to find. With its unassuming entrance nestled between Ram's Head Live! and the Comedy Factory in Baltimore's Power Plant Live! complex, it's an island of calm in a sea of neon.

But its exhibition "The Sum of the Parts" deserves a couple of exclamation points of its own.

This solid group show is the brainchild of curator Amy Boone-McCreesh, the latest beneficiary of MAP's well-regarded Curators' Incubator, an annual mentoring program for emerging curatorial talent. For "Sum," Boone-McCreesh has found four artists, each of whom uses a cumulative process -- adding together many small pieces to make a larger, more meaningful whole -- in his or her art.

The simplest form of accretion is in the work of Jerry Kaba. Both of his sculptural installations center on multiple cast-ceramic objects. "Toms River" is an array of 21 yellow jars on a bed of brown soil; "Outmoded" features 10 batlike objects, each of which has been coated with a kind of red synthetic rubber called Plasti-Dip.

Taken individually, the artifacts themselves just aren't that interesting. They look vaguely industrial and utilitarian. In a pile, however, or lined up in rows, they're suddenly a commentary on mass production. The tension comes from the fact that Kaba, obviously, isn't a machine. The ever-so-slightly-sloppy hand of the artist -- in service of robotic repetition -- was never more apparent, or more poignant.

Sculptor Lauren Clay's hand-cut paper abstractions don't mimic manufacture. Her two most striking pieces - which are both jaw-dropping and whimsical - feature hundreds of strips of painted paper, cascading almost organically, like hair, around boxlike substructures. 

At first glance, her art seems as baroque as Kaba's is minimalist. But what's more minimal than a blank piece of paper? Clay's art manages to straddle -- and to poke knowing fun at -- the extremes of art history.

Nikki Painter contributes 14 abstract drawings to "Sum" (12 of which are hung in a 3-by-4 grid). Though the grid underscores the work's multiplicity, the drawings are all different. Not wildly so - Painter's style evokes exploded architectural renderings - but varied enough to maintain visual interest. 

Where Painter succeeds best is with her room-size sculptural installation that takes up the whole of the gallery's front room. Called "Play," it's like a 3-D version of her drawings: draftsmanship made flesh. The title is also a pun. The work is halfway between a funhouse and a stage set.

If there's a scene-stealer in "Sum," it's Emily Barletta. The artist, who works with yarn and embroidered paper, makes her most unforgettable statements with delicate crocheted sculptures that call to mind body parts.

The subtext of time and mortality is everywhere in Barletta's labor-intensive work, though it never reeks of effort. It has the look of a handmade scarf - a labor of love - but it packs the power of a punch to the gut.

It will take your breath away.

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Maryland Art Place (MAP) inspires, supports, and encourages artistic expression through innovative programming, exhibitions, and educational opportunities while recognizing the powerful impact art can have on our community. MAP creates a dynamic environment for artists of our time to engage the public by nurturing and promoting new ideas. MAP has served as a critical resource for contemporary art in the Mid-Atlantic since 1981.

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