R Catalogue of the exhibition, Johannesburg Art Gallery,
Friedrich Nietzsche What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.
Auguste Rodin Beginning in the later s Cody Choi impetuously fabricated his own visceral legend. Now, near the end of the second decade of the 21st century, he stares himself down as it creates him back.
Choi relocated with his family from Seoul, Korea, to the U. Army blankets, items of apparel, cans of corned beef, pin-up blonds. But he was always less interested in specific American objects than in the systems of exchange—imperial, cultural, subjectivizing—in which they were embedded and commodified.
Here the itemized accouterments of a combat-ready soldier are offered in a mode of abstract disembodiment: Totems of human surplus, they add specific forms of manufactured value to a singular warrior, at the same time standing-in for the mass replication of the larger force.
But he was not remotely taken-in by the nationalist ideology of the state-sanctioned riposte proffered by the Park Chung-hee regime—leavened as it was with traditionalist nostalgia and deference to the status quo.
He was seduced, compelled, even enraptured; but at the same time disaffected and appalled. Much of the power of these contradictions was caught up in their libidinal origins.
For the unstoppable allure, volcanic eroticism and desperate untouchability of the stereotypes of American sexuality he encountered in his adolescence provoked a riot of frustrated transference.
The ineffability of American military and political power, and the enormity of its economic might and media dominance merely added unfathomable depth to a desire that could not really be faced, let alone delivered or relieved. For they double down on—and then double cross—personal and social anxieties.
His army blankets masquerade as bedsheets; Choi family snapshots infiltrate the geopolitics U. No legend can be sustained without propaganda, and Choi accordingly delivers himself as his own talent and promoter in what he terms the Golden Boy Poster.
Against the background of an auratic sun, hovering clouds, a crowing cock and sprigs of pink and white blossom, dressed in a black shirt and sporting a paisley bandanna, Cody proffers a fresh bottle of the magic medicine that acts as his bodily panacea, sculptural medium, and artistic totem.
Pepto Bismol is the symbolic fluid of his legend; its pink protection and intimations of a future perfect are his armor and grail. Nor does it in any way depend on the multi-cultural fairy-tale of happy assimilation and hyphenated identity.
It arises, instead, from a practice that is simultaneously self-deprecating, violently assertive and socially interrogative. Some beginnings for the ideas glimpsed and debunked in the cosmetic gleam of the Golden Boy Poster emerge in a number of paintings made by Choi while studying with Mike Kelley at Art Center, Pasadena in the late s.Real news, curated by real humans.
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