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Yowshien Kuo: Recurring Conversations with the Unknown Verge
June 2–July 2, 2021

Yowshien Kuo creates videos and paintings that manipulate the visual language of Americana, folded together with a multiplicity of art historical references, to render images that are at once remarkably precise, allegorical, flattened, and filled with movement. Recurring Conversations with the Unknown Verge presents three new video works by Kuo, which together reference Hieronymus Bosch’s complex triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, made at the turn of the 16th Century. The title of the exhibition is borrowed from Dante’s Inferno, while an image of Botticelli's Inferno appears in the second video, An Ongoing Divine Comedy (2021), further emphasizing Kuo’s multi-layered reference.
Original music composed and performed by Parisian.

Yowshien Kuo
Canto
2021
Single Channel Digital Video, 1:00
Edition of 3 plus 1 AP
Edition 1: 6,000 USD

The first video work, Canto (2021), adopts the word for both “section” and “song.” The video begins with a Yin-Yang intertwined with a 5-sided star, both rendered in barbed wire: a metaphor for the Asian American psychological frenzy about to ensue. A nightclub scene follows, in which strawberries fall as a substitute for the apple from the story of the Garden of Eden. The work continues with a visual discourse that marks the journey of both hard and soft power initiated by colonization.

Yowshien Kuo
An Ongoing Divine Comedy
2021
Single Channel Digital Video, 1:00
Edition of 3 plus 1 AP
Edition 1: 6,000 USD

The second work, An Ongoing Divine Comedy (2021), opens with an interpolation of Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps (c. 1594), a depiction of cheating exposed during a card game. Asian film characters are placed into the scene with expressions of comedy and fear. What follows is an imaginary visualization of mania that leads to an abandonment of self-discovery. A false deity appears, referencing both Greco-Roman mythology and the Chinese dragon, while brief apparitions of incense sticks and joss paper emphasize worship and afterlife—symbolic of envisioning false dreams. The peking duck becomes a symbol of time and transformation, which ultimately ends in a form of tragedy under the historic powers in place.

Yowshien Kuo
Heaven
2021
Single Channel Digital Video, 1:00
Edition of 3 plus 1 AP
Edition 1: 6,000 USD

The third and final part of the journey, Heaven (2021), contrasts the previous pair, emphasizing a discovery and emergence of self-empowerment. The work delivers a dream of finding solace in an American life; imagining that the “American dream” of previous generations was not for naught. In Kuo’s words: “I think of my mother and father here, the sacrifices they’ve made in giving up one world with the dream of a new one.” The work also makes reference to Ang Lee’s 2005 Neo-Western, Brokeback Mountain, based on the short fiction written by Annie Proulx for the New Yorker in 1997, as “a love story that is never fully realized…”

Yowshien Kuo (b. 1985 in St. Louis, MO) received his BFA (2011) and MFA (2014) from Fontbonne University, St. Louis. Kuo has been included in exhibitions at The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; The Luminary, St. Louis; Center for Creative Arts, St. Louis; The Bermuda Project, Ferguson; Julius Ceasar, Chicago; Super Dutchess Gallery, New York; and the Terrain Biennial, Enos Park. Kuo’s work was featured on the cover of New American Paintings #149 (2020).