Artist Offers Patient, Elemental Exhibit Print
Art - Reviews
Tuesday, 15 October 2002 18:00
JinMan Jo’s one-man show at Quad City Arts gallery in downtown Rock Island is very ambitious in its size and medium, with expressive rustic sculptures that evoke an emotional response from the viewer. I think they are better suited to being shown outside, and this is also the artist’s preferred venue. “The materials I use are very durable because my work must be able to withstand the forces of nature,” Jo writes in his artist statement. Yet this show is set in an interior gallery, perhaps creating a different feel for the works than when viewed outdoors.

All of the works are titled Self Consciousness. It is probably best to quote extensively from Korean-born JinMan Jo’s artist statement: “Recently, the tendency of my works has been interpreting the modern world, which I feel has been increasingly losing its identity and becoming more alienated with moods of melancholy and depression due to constant seeking of economical expansion.”

By using earth tones and rough-hewn shapes with little or no finish, Jo expresses the Earth in its most elemental guise. The use of concrete and rusting steel can express the foundations of structures that man has erected. Jo explains how he uses his materials for self-expression: “In working with stone, steel, and wood, I must use great force to change the rigid nature of the material into the forms I choose. As my materials take on their new forms, they begin to become vehicles for transmission of my ideas to the viewer.”

That’s somewhat difficult, because the artist gives few hints about what his ideas are, with each work bearing the same title. His artist statement does offer hints, though: “In this exhibition, I have an ambition to extend and share my experiences to others. My view of the world is not through sociology but through the philosophy of existentialism. I am like a rock in deep water; it is dark and heavy but it is not without hope. Even plants are able to thrive, and fish show off their many colors.”

My understanding of existentialism uses a few basic concepts: People have free will; life is a series of choices, creating stress; few decisions are without any negative consequences; some things are irrational or absurd, without explanation; if one makes a decision, one must follow through. It’s not clear to me how Jo’s work fits into that philosophy, but the artist seems to want viewers to draw their own meanings from the work: “In making public sculpture, I encourage my viewers to relate their own experiences to the ideas I examine in my work.”

Jo, who is a student and teacher at University of Iowa Art & Art History Department, has a statement that’s as candid a self-assessment as I’ve read in a long time: “I make huge sculptures. That is from an inferiority complex due to my small stature, but it can also be connected with my accomplishments and self-discovery after a long hard work. I work slowly and steadily just as a drop makes a hole on a large rock. I am a prayer of joy and satisfaction without stress.”

Obviously, size restrictions make it impossible to bring “huge” sculptures into a gallery space such as Quad City Arts. But the rest of the statement shows a very patient, hard-working person, and the sculptures reflect this slow process.
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