A Higher Vision
A deep fascination with forms in nature lies at the root of Cho’s artistry, and it continues to sustain his practice and propel it forward in new directions.
In a corner by the entrance to Namu Cho’s basement studio in Bethesda, Maryland, a four-foot-high metallic sculpture stands like a sentry. This abstract cyclopean figure, with its steel body and head of bronze sprouting long, fang-like gold appendages, represents Cho’s take on the jangseung, a traditional Korean totemic carving often placed on the outskirts of a village, both to mark boundaries and to ward off demons. In this case, its presence seems to demarcate the studio as a place of solitude and creativity, protecting it from the outside world and its endless demands and distractions. As is the practice in Korea, Cho collects rocks on his walks and places them around the base of the sculpture as a kind of offering.
The house, located on a quiet, wooded cul-de-sac in this suburb of Washington, D.C., is itself a sanctuary of sorts. Cho and his wife Jean, also an accomplished jewelry artist, have filled the space with their handmade art objects, large and small, functional and decorative. In the open doorway leading to the living room, for example, stands an imposing piece of sculptural furniture—a solid wooden bench from which sinuous metal forms extend upward, like climbing vines and outstretched arms, toward a sphere of pure gold suspended above, a radiant sun that is also an eye. This composition—which is echoed in several wood-and-metal sculptures mounted on the walls opposite—seems to link the primordial pull of the sun on living things to our own very human striving to achieve a higher vision. These same motifs can be found, in various combinations, in some of Namu’s jewelry pieces... (More)
A Queen Within
Strains of mysterious music resonating in the half-lit galleries at the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri are the visitor’s first clues that the exhibition showing through April 18, 2014, “A Queen Within,” is not about the physical features of a playing piece and their influence on fashion design nor even about drawing inspiration for creativity from the game of chess in a broader sense. In the context of the exhibition the queen appears as a symbol of multiple personalities in a dream realm to which chess is only a foil: a fleeting backdrop of logic and rules against which imagination operates like an erratic outlier brought suddenly on stage. It would be difficult to picture many of the exhibition’s fantastic dresses in the mundane walks of the everyday world, but in the space beyond the looking glass—a space in which the Red Queen and the White Queen conjure in their convoluted utterings the strange associate powers of the unconscious—extremes of the imagination are right at home.
Designer Alexander McQueen’s It’s Only A Game collection, which debuted in 2005 with models confronting one another on a colossal illuminated chessboard, sparked the idea of “A Queen Within,” but fashion curator Sofia Hedman soon expanded the theme dramatically outward from this nucleus. Reflecting on the queen as an archetypal symbol (in the Jungian sense as a representation of primal ideas in the collective unconscious), she divided the exhibition thematically into nine personas with which the queen has been associated in history or fairytales: sage, mother, enchantress, magician, explorer, ruler, heroine, Mother Earth, and Thespian. These categories defined the parameters for the selection of designs. Consequently, such eye-catchers as Hussein Chalayan’s Bubble Dress—composed of scores of clear plastic spheres attached to a semi-transparent ribbon winding its way over a mannequin that is decidedly less detailed than an actual human body—have no obvious visual connections to queens (of the chessboard variety or otherwise)... (More)
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