SMOCA Visit

The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is exhibiting a group show titled: Artists tell stories (mostly about themselves). The show is installed in a large, open, cement-floored room with high ceilings. Works by three different artists were displayed on the perimeter walls as well as several sculptural pieces in the center of the room.

At first, I was particularly unimpressed with the artist Andrew Kuo’s work. The first Kuo piece I was greeted with was a small self portrait titled “This is How Tall I am. This is How Tall I Want to be.” The colors used were jarring (a vibrant red, neon green, black, and beige) and applied haphazardly with thick, unintentional looking strokes. The artist demonstrated no control of the medium and no particular disregard for the medium, either. I couldn’t decide if I was looking at a painter who really had no idea how to paint, or who was intentionally painting rather primitively (in an attempt to mirror Picasso’s primitive style) but not quite committing with convincing gusto.

Placed next to the painting, leaning against the wall was a wooden plank painted two different colors, representing 1)how tall the artist is and 2)how tall he wants to be. I thought this was clever, and so further explored his paintings.

The next painting, titled “Self Portrait” did not improve much in my mind. The same sort of reckless (but not entirely) handling of the paint appeared in this small portrait, but this time it seemed much more intentional. Blocks of colors almost resembling feathers cover the face of the portrait, but the artist’s glasses (likely one of his key identifiers) remains quite visible and prominent. Still, I was not altogether convinced that I liked this artist, or even tolerated his work enough to keep looking.

Kuo’s next several paintings completely changed my mind.

Directly next to “Self Portrait” hung a framed piece titled “Drinking as of May 15, 2008 [Crying-eyes Face]” with what appeared to be two pie charts next to each other, both above a vertically linear color field composition. One pie graph was labeled “The Parts I Like About Drinking” and the other “The Parts I Do Not Like About Drinking.”  The lower section was labeled “The Drunk Arc.”

“Now this,” I thought to myself, “is going to be good.”

Each of these sections of the painting had corresponding colors to describe the artist’s thoughts in each pie chart. The more I read, the more giggling escaped my mouth. Under “The Parts of Drinking I Do Not Like” pie chart read several phrases such as, “The inevitable existential mess that is the next day,” and “I do not want to turn into ‘that guy.'” Also, “If my liver could talk, what would it say?” and “I can’t believe I actually said that.”

I could hardly believe this was the same artist as the previous two paintings! What began as sloppy, uninteresting paintings transitioned into tight, cleanly crafted and witty visual representations of the artist’s inner thoughts. Humorous thoughts, too, that many people can identify with.

Other paintings included:

The Walk Home After Being Racially Slurred/I’m Not Tall, Dark, or Handsome

The [Roughly] Three Hours and Forty Five Minutes Before Finding my Glasses in the Fridge/Today’s Problems were Last Night’s Solutions

I have to admit to being a bit prematurely judgmental of this artist. After spending more time with his work for this group show, I am much more interested in his ideas. I was completely captivated by his witty and clever anecdotes paired with interesting line and color field compositions.

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