Text and Interview: Alec Coiro
Images Courtesy of Marlborough Gallery
Andrew Kuo’s latest show is a collection of paintings, but to describe Kuo as painter would be to paint him with too limiting of a brush (as it were). A quick perusal of the painting’s in his latest show “No To Self,” which just went up at Marlborough Chelsea, reveals intricate charts nested beneath the geometric forms of the paintings. These charts provide a key of sorts to Kuo’s role as an interpreter of the modern condition and gesture toward his unique way of traveling through both the form and the content of our zeitgeist.
The paintings themselves are patterned and geometric in a way that is a clear break from any modernist use of geometry. Here what is being deconstructed is not the form and process of painting, but geometries, binaries, and pixelization that form our everyday life. And then, to complicate things, there is “Nose” which noses its way into the show, disrupting the sharp lines with its blurred brushstrokes, nicely revealing the process behind the creation.
Or at least, those were my impressions of the paintings. Luckily enough, we got a chance to talk to Kuo about the show and hearing him talk about his work is actually way more illuminating. You’ll also you can learn everything you need to know about the condition of your inner self in the modern world, the existential meaning of Milhouse, and what to expect from the New York Knicks.
The press release for your show is an uncommonly interesting read. As a painter who investigates the modern digital glut of data, what do you think painting’s role is within that glut?
My argument is that data is based on, and creates emotion. I’m not sure if there’s a “glut,” but maybe there’s just a lot more things to either explore or ignore. Painting, like a lot of things, is a reaction with its own specific history/baggage. Maybe it’s seen through a different lense than TV, music, writing, etc, but it’s all fair game to me.
For me, the title of your show riffs on the phrase “note to self” in a way that seems clear at first, but then grows more elusive as you think about it. What sort of effect or meaning were you going for with this title? Do you think our notions of selfhood have changed?
I do think the idea of “self” has changed, but probably at the same rate it’s always changed. It’s nice to think the most change happens whenever we decide to look, but it’s probably the same as always. “No to Self” is about that inward discussion, mediated by the things around us that are most likely real: numbers, data, time, food, bartenders, cats, etc. Sometimes the answer comes back as “no.”
What were some of the new approaches you took when you made the new paintings for No To Self?
For years I was interested in trying to find an empirical way to show things that were vague. These paintings are made with that same idea, but I’ve layered more rules on top of more rules, hoping to generate mistakes and new patterns. At some point in each painting, I’ve given control over to randomness and luck. Hopefully not ugly luck!
Your Instagram profile picture is Milhouse. I’ve loved Milhouse since he said “so this is what it sounds like when doves cry,” but why Milhouse in this context?
“It’s recess everywhere but in his heart.” I use Milhouse for all my social media avatars mostly because I look like him, but also that I always assumed he was Asian, on a show where almost every character is yellow. That and he’s the victim. Martyr complex! When I was a kid I felt like they were talking directly at me.
I gather you’re a Knicks fan; is that right? As a Knicks fan (or otherwise), do you think there is a realistic path to a championship if the Knicks to continue building around Anthony?
Huge fan! I don’t think Carmelo can be the principle piece to a championship caliber team at this point. His skills have deteriorated enough (low free-throw rate, reluctance to move towards the rim, slow reaction time on defense) and his price is so high that it’s just hard to surround him with the right players. If the team starts putting Porzingis with the right guys, Carmelo could be a part of that, but he’s still in “hero” mode. He is what he is: a scorer who needs the ball in his hands. Nice guy. Cool star to have in NY. It just magnifies how special the LeBrons, Chris Pauls and Duncans are in this world.