An Installation That Carries the World’s Weight

Hand-stitched leather turtles, diminishing in size, are stacked in front of an abstract landscape painting. On the adjacent wall, an oversize figure that represents an adolescent consumer presents its back to the viewer, a disembodied glove pulling the fabric of its designer jacket. In the forefront, giant ash leaves spread across the floor.

“Turtles All the Way Down,” an installation by Min Yoon, the South Korean artist now based in Vienna, is one of 18 solo projects chosen for the Statements sector at this year’s Art Basel. The work by Mr. Yoon will be displayed by the Lars Friedrich Gallery of Berlin, which is participating in the fair for the first time.

The presentation is made up of three interconnected sculptures and paintings. While Mr. Yoon has included an individual turtle and single leaves in previous shows, he set out to push these motifs further and interweave them into a larger artistic statement.

“‘Turtles All the Way Down’ was in my mind for a really long time already,” Mr. Yoon, 35, said by phone from Vienna, “but I was waiting for the moment. The most important for me was how to make all these individual works connected, but not in a very obvious way.”

Mr. Yoon joins a number of talents featured in Statements, an international platform for emerging artists that was started at Art Basel in 1996. William Kentridge, Elizabeth Peyton and Kara Walker were among the artists discovered in early editions, and Simon Fujiwara, Haegue Yang, Monika Sosnowska and Kerstin Brätsch were showcased more recently, said Marc Spiegler, Art Basel’s global director.

“With that kind of track record,” he wrote in an email, “it’s clear why so many collectors and curators head there first.”

Mr. Spiegler said the selection committee sought out work that was “innovative in terms of approach, materials and concepts,” while also representing “a broad cross-section of the next generation of artistic practice.”

About 10 percent of the artists who apply to the Statements sector are accepted, according to Mr. Spiegler.

Among the other projects featured in this year’s Statements are the first major video work by the American artist Diane Severin Nguyen and a series of wire sculptures by the Bolivian-born Andrés Pereira Paz.

The title of Mr. Yoon’s presentation derives from the mythological figure of a World Turtle that holds the earth on its back.

The column of increasingly smaller stuffed turtles is protected by an umbrella that is adorned with leather cutouts of continents, some of which hang off the edge precariously.

The sculptures are made largely of pig hide, a leather that is at once fine and stiff.

After Art Basel was postponed last year because of the pandemic, Mr. Yoon continued to work on his solo presentation. He added coffee mugs that dangle from the tails of the turtles — further symbols of a world in turmoil. At the base of the sculpture is a pitcher that spills fluid, also made of leather.

The approximately seven-foot-tall consumer is full of even more meticulously crafted elements, from the doll-like pincushions that peek out from beneath its pants to a pair of leather scissors. Mr. Yoon said that the exposed nature of the figure’s back called attention to the “production process” itself. The gloves attached to the front and backside of the figure are “a kind of joke,” he said: “Hands are very busy, touching the body, or touching artwork.”

Mr. Yoon had his first solo exhibit in 2013, two years after he began his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. He has mostly been presented in the German-speaking world but also in the United States, France and Denmark. This fall brings a residency at the Neuer Essener Kunstverein in Germany.

For Inka Meissner, the Lars Friedrich Gallery director, Mr. Yoon’s detailed handwork plays with the boundaries between design and visual art. The jacket worn by the adolescent consumer is a replica from the 2007 collection of the Japanese fashion label Comme des Garçons.

The figure, she said, “represents a conscious engagement with the conditions of art and the art market.” The leather leaves, imprinted with enlarged Korean coins, are a possible indication of an “entrepreneurial cycle,” as the leaves have proverbially fallen to the ground and been transformed into another material, Ms. Meissner added.

The installation as a whole creates a dreamlike space that she sees as a kind of allegory for the current state of the world. “There is perhaps the realization that capitalism has overridden all myths,” she said.

At the same time, there is a playfulness to the adolescent. At its right side are shopping bags shaped like miniature school buildings (which Ms. Meissner sees as a reference to the overlapping processes of education and socialization).

The installation also works with optical illusions. On the wall between the turtles and the adolescent are two paintings, each of a shining light-bulb and a sequence of three keys, but with a slight variation between them.

The sculptures and paintings create a web of cross-connections but can also stand alone. Mr. Yoon said that while he did not differentiate between fairs and exhibits when creating a concept, Art Basel provided an opportunity to go further with his ideas.

The artist said he was already thinking about using the adolescent consumer as a spinoff for his next show. “I only think about the work,” he said, “and my own path.”

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