Perspectives: Michael Joo at the Sackler Gallery

July 1, 2016 by Mary

An installation by Korean American artist Michael Joo (b. 1966, Ithaca, N.Y.) will be exhibited in the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Pavilion this year as part of the museum’s “Perspectives” contemporary art series. “Perspectives: Michael Joo,” on view July 2, 2016–July 9, 2017, will explore the migration patterns of Korean red-crowned cranes. The monumental installation consists of a canvas—nearly 13 feet tall and 10 feet wide—and a hanging sculpture.


The subject of these two new artworks, created specifically for the Sackler, are endangered red-crowned cranes, which are significant in Korean culture. The cranes freely migrate through the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)—a pristine ecosystem of 160 miles of unoccupied territory between North and South Korea. Joo employs a combination of painting, sculpture, photography, digital scanning, printmaking and crane specimens in his investigation of the birds’ movements.

“As a sculptor I have been preoccupied with spaces and the time it takes for us to move through them, how the things we bring to them—from ourselves, to our objects, to our intentions and perceptions of them—can expand, how we locate ourselves in the present,” Joo said.

In the large canvas installation, Joo uses a silver-nitrate method common in his work. The piece is silvered using a chemical process derived from early photographic techniques. He uses three-dimensional ornithological scans from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, where he participated in a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship residency in 2012. The abstraction is a mirrored image of two collected crane carcasses, representing both their organic form and the geometric form of their storage container.

The sculpture portion of the installation consists of brass rods suspended from the Sackler Pavilion ceiling. The sculpture’s linear patterns outline the satellite-tracked migration patterns of the red-crowned cranes across Korea and the DMZ. Each rod is dependent on the other for balance, and their lines represent freedom and the inescapability of instinct.

During the year that this installation is on view, the natural light from the windows will interact with the silvered canvas and the sculpture’s lines. As natural light hits them, their appearance will change depending on the time of day and time of year.

July 2, 2016 – July 9, 2017
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
1050 Independence Ave SW, PO Box 37012, MRC 707
Washington, DC 20013-7012