The D.C. Docent

What can you say about Nam June Paik? You’ve no doubt read my numerous comments over the last 2 years about how his retrospective at the Guggenheim many moons ago was one of my all time favorite museum shows; so there’s that. The new exhibition Nam June Paik: Global Visionary which opened last week at The American Art Museum gives yet another comprehensive look at his body of work (and vision) that escapes neat classification. This exhibition trailer gives just the slightest glimpse into the myriad reasons you should visit this show, but at least a glimpse is better than nothing at all.

Exhibition runs through August 2013. Also be sure to check out the extensive online resources for the Nam June Paik archive, exhibition programming and more at the link above.

TV Buddha (1974) - Nam June Paik: “Paik’s possibly most famous video work was produced as a gap-filler for an empty wall in his fourth show in the Galeria Bonino, New York. Shortly before the opening, he hit upon the idea of making a TV viewer out of an antique Buddha statue once purchased as an investment. The subsequent addition of a video camera meant the Buddha now watched his videotaped image on the screen opposite – past and present gaze upon each other in an encounter between Oriental deity and Western media. During the ‘Projekt ‘74’ exhibition in Cologne, Paik took the Buddha’s place in his recent creation, suggesting the implicit antithesis between transcendentalism and technology was equally present in his own personality.”

TV Buddha (1974) - Nam June Paik: “Paik’s possibly most famous video work was produced as a gap-filler for an empty wall in his fourth show in the Galeria Bonino, New York. Shortly before the opening, he hit upon the idea of making a TV viewer out of an antique Buddha statue once purchased as an investment. The subsequent addition of a video camera meant the Buddha now watched his videotaped image on the screen opposite – past and present gaze upon each other in an encounter between Oriental deity and Western media. During the ‘Projekt ‘74’ exhibition in Cologne, Paik took the Buddha’s place in his recent creation, suggesting the implicit antithesis between transcendentalism and technology was equally present in his own personality.”


Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S.; Alaska, Hawaii (1995) by Nam June Paik—I like this blogger’s reaction:

"I am rarely impressed by contemporary art, especially not by garish and cacophonous pieces like this one. I don’t know if it was neon lights reflecting against the gallery’s white monotony which initially drew me in, but I found Paik’s work striking.
Although the hall was practically empty and there was an abundance of seats outside of this alcove, there were two people parked in front of this exhibit, staring into the abyss of televisions. The continuous flickering of the screens and disjointed audio are overwhelming, yet this couple was absolutely mesmerized. It was almost as though they had become a part of the exhibit; I don’t want to say that it became a voyeuristic exercise for me because that connotes a sense of gratification that I did not experience, but I doubt that I would have been nearly as enthralled by the piece had they not been there.
Living art, indeed.”
[5 April 2011] Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S.; Alaska, Hawaii (1995) by Nam June Paik—I like this blogger’s reaction:

"I am rarely impressed by contemporary art, especially not by garish and cacophonous pieces like this one. I don’t know if it was neon lights reflecting against the gallery’s white monotony which initially drew me in, but I found Paik’s work striking.

Although the hall was practically empty and there was an abundance of seats outside of this alcove, there were two people parked in front of this exhibit, staring into the abyss of televisions. The continuous flickering of the screens and disjointed audio are overwhelming, yet this couple was absolutely mesmerized. It was almost as though they had become a part of the exhibit; I don’t want to say that it became a voyeuristic exercise for me because that connotes a sense of gratification that I did not experience, but I doubt that I would have been nearly as enthralled by the piece had they not been there.

Living art, indeed.”

[5 April 2011] Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

NGA Keeps Blowing Me Away: Gaugin, Nam June Paik, and now Lewis Baltz!

If ever there was a time to spend ALL DAY at the National Gallery of Art, it’s now. The photography exhibit Prototypes/Ronde de Nuit, showcases post-war places, non-places and the intersection of psychology and geometry in suburbia by Lewis Baltz. “In the first exhibition dedicated to this series, some 50 Prototypes will be on view along with sculptures by Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd and prints by Richard Serra.” 

With 3 great artists exhibiting at NGA right now there is absolutely no excuse not to go!

Nam June Paik exhibit at NGA

I was first exposed to this Korean legend in 2000 when I attended (completely by accident) his first American retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York. I can still remember winding up to the top and feeling truly awed at his genius, with each step forward revealing more and more. Side note: this is the second best exhibit I’ve ever seen at the Guggenheim; best was Cai Guo-Qiang’s I Want to Believe in 2008. I was to see Paik’s work in-person again only twice before he died: at the Hirshhorn (Video Flag) and a small piece at one of the WPA’s annual auctions (not sure of the year, but Annie Adjanavich was still their Executive Director).

This past Sunday, the National Gallery of Art opened an intimate exhibit which features works from the gallery’s collection as well as his estate. “The centerpiece is One Candle, Candle Projection (1988–2000), one of the artist’s simplest, most dynamic works. Each morning a candle is lit and a video camera follows its progress, casting its flickering, magnified, processed image onto the walls in myriad projections.” I haven’t seen it yet, but this description reminds me of a particular piece by South African artist Robin Rhode I saw last year at LACMA.

I’m sure the visit will be worth it. Also check out this succinct write up by Art Daily.

In The Tower: Nam June Paik on view through October 2.