The Philosophy of Physical Existence at Tutu Gallery

A room with a fireplace and a rug

Description automatically generated

Installation view of Gentle Mist group exhibition at the Tutu Gallery, Photo Credit: Yulin Gu and Yuhan Shen

The exhibition titled Gentle Mist at the Tutu Gallery in Brooklyn could be mistaken for primarily being idea-driven, in which case the ideas precede artwork production, along the lines of artists working with clarity of vision, such as the Conceptual artist Sol Lewitt and the Minimalist artists Tony Smith and Robert Morris. However, upon closer examination of the works by this group of New York and Baltimore artists, we realize that the makers of the art objects are more intuitively engaged with their art. There is a great deal of trial and error and improvisation in the creative process, and the ideation and production processes integrate up into a complex maneuver or dance.

A cube of white wax

Description automatically generated with medium confidence
Francie Seidl Chodosh, My Father’s Box, 2023, Resin and cast in 14 in x 14 in x 14 in. Photo provided by the gallery

For example, Francie Seidl Chodosh’s My Father’s Box (2023) is a mimetic and substitutive representation of a box that belonged to the artist’s father, made of resin and cast tin rather than cardboard. It is reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box sculpture, which comments on what the Brillo Box is – is it the object or the idea behind it? The sculpture replicates every aspect of the box, including the imperfections and the textures of the cardboard paper, as well as the tapes around the cardboard box. The resin and cast tin color are neutral greenish white, suggesting a vague memory due to the lack of vivid colors. The specificity of the artwork indicates how many trials and different paths the artist undertook in terms of the materials, the presentation, the fabrication, and the conception, which all impacted and changed one another.

A metal box with a white circle on it

Description automatically generated
Yuhan Shen, Untitled, Object 1, 2023, Copper Plate, copper tube, wood, and electronics, 7 in x 5 in x 6 in. Photo provided by the gallery

Yuhan Shen’s Untitled, Object 1 (2023) is another gem in the show, which reveals the poetic possibilities of technology-based art. An abstract shape of snow-like ice forms on the copper plate, cooled by the air from within. Why did the artist make an abstract painting through a technology-based sculpture? What art can be touched and removed by hand (as the ice melts and dissipates upon repeated touch by the audience)? What is art if, to crudely put it, it appears to be made of the same substance as the ice inside the fridge? Is there such a thing as a separation between art and life, like a frame or a pedestal that serves as an abstract boundary between the two? Furthermore, is this work highlighting the sensory, experiential, and consumptive possibilities within art, like cooking and eating as in Rirkrit Tiravanija’s work in 1990 minus relational aesthetics? Shen’s process had to involve experimentation and play with the technical aspects of the cooling mechanism and the material science of the plate where the ice is being formed so that the plate would not deteriorate and deform over time, for example.

A view of Se Young Yim’s Cheeks (2024). Photo provided by the gallery

Another work that seems to do away with a frame or a pedestal that would separate art from life is Se Young Yim’s Cheeks (2024), which is positioned centrally within the gallery space. It consists of rock-like pieces that exhibit motor movement, painted with acrylic to imitate rocks. An inert reflective steel sphere accompanies them. Due to space and safety concerns, the sculptures were activated only on the opening day. Yim is an artist who concerns herself with the physical constraint of existence and the physical limitation of one’s existence in terms of resources by engaging with the metaphor of rocks. Her art’s rock-like forms imitate rocks faithfully, using acrylic paint and the buildup of layers and textures. They include small patches of glistening surfaces, like amber or volcanic glass. This detail may also comment on the origins of all rocks as volcanic (and/or cooled lava) matter. The steel ball at the center, which reflects the viewer and allows them to see themselves within the artwork, is also a great decision by the artist and a very fitting visual device within the work. Borrowing from Jeff Koon’s Gazing Ball concept, the steel sphere contradicts the disorder and uncertainty of the rock-like sculptures with its appearance of order and clarity.

Rocks tend to move downward into the sea from their origins in the volcanoes, and they all break apart. Once they reach the bottom of the sea, they melt as lava and are recycled into the volcanic systems. But until this happens, rocks simply exist. Some are as old as the formation of the solar system itself. Humans are a bit different. We don’t simply exist. We learn and grow, love and fight, work, become old, and eventually die. All happens in a brief span of 65 ~ 100 years, typically. But this sentiment of human exceptionalism could result from our human-centric bias. Existence does not have to be anything like human experience to be defined as existence. Thus, Yim’s sculptures and installations, representing rocks, may be more than appropriate for investigating the subject matter of existence.

Char Russell Martinez, Steps in Blue, 2023, Oil paint on panel, 14 in x 11 in. Photo provided by the gallery

Yim elevates the language of the artwork into a kind of abstraction, a lyrical or beautified ambiguous logic. The other artists with a similar affinity for lyricism include Char Russell Martinez, who made Steps in Blue (2023), an oil painting that evokes the sensation of looking through a window on a rainy day without the literalness of it all. In the Gentle Mist exhibition, ambiguity is the poetic framework with which artists such as Yim foray into the unknown. See the show yourself before it closes on July 1st.

Gentle Mist at the Tutu Gallery showcases the interdisciplinary works of thirteen artists primarily based in New York and Baltimore. Curated by artists Seung-Jun Lee and Sha Luo.

About the Writer: Chunbum Park, also known as Chun, is a writer, artist, and photographer from South Korea, where they were born in 1991. Park has written for the New Visionary Magazine, Two Coats of Paint, Tussle Magazine, XIBT Magazine, and others. They completed their MFA in Fine Arts Studio from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2022. Park’s graduate thesis dealt with the merging of gender fluidity, anti-racist aesthetics, and Northeast Asian beauty in their art. They also interview artists at the Emerging Whales Collective.