Michael Joo Korean-American, b. 1966


Why do we perceive as we perceive? Michael Joo takes a non-linear, almost cyclical approach to his practice. Together with his combination of scientific language and research, it results in work that is a documentation of process.


Whether chemically treated, silver-coated, or photo- based, Joo’s artwork combines a range of techniques associated with sculpture, painting, photography, and printmaking. He continues to blur the boundaries between art and science through his investigation into ontology, epistemology, and entropy, creating a cross-disciplinary and multidimensional dialogue to engage, question, meditate, and explore.


By juxtaposing humanity’s various pools of knowledge and culture, Joo addresses the fluid nature of identity itself. It seems as if the artist’s intention is to achieve the unachievable: to make us see an object in real life that is barely conceivable as thought alone.


Using silver nitrate, a chemical traditionally used in photography, the artist explores the compound’s inherent reflective properties and ability to render visible the invisible. It allows the viewer to both be bathed in the reflected light of the work while physically appearing within the work itself, at once seeing the artist’s work and their own response to it.


Joo is more interested in the way we perceive than in what it is we are looking at, in the symbolic as well as the literal sense. The seemingly liquid and hybrid environments that Joo creates reflect his own history. Born to Korean parents in the United States, a science graduate turned artist, Joo comes from a multicultural background with an interdisciplinary academic history. The diversity of reference and material in his work mirrors the complexity and richness that are so typical of identity—collective and individual—in modern contemporary society. It is a complexity that Joo has experienced and been influenced by since childhood.


Major exhibitions of Joo's work include Perspectives: Michael Joo, Smithsonian Freer | Sackler Museum, Washington, DC, USA; 49th Venice Biennale, Korean Pavilion, Italy; Sensory Meridian, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; Michael Joo, Conserving Momentum (Egg/Gyro/Laundry Room), White Cube London, UK; Michael Joo: Drift, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT, USA; Michael Joo: Drift (Bronx), The Bronx Museum of Arts, New York, NY, USA; Michael Joo, Doppelganger, Cass Sculpture Foundation, Sussex, UK; and Michael Joo Retrospective, Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Palm Beach, CA, USA. Joo is a Senior Critic in Sculpture at Yale University and teaches in the Columbia University MFA program. His work is in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, MoMA, and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Denver Art Museum; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden, among others.