EVENTS

Calendar

Apr
9
Fri
Spartan Skin @ MSU Union Art Gallery
Apr 9 @ 12:00 pm – May 21 @ 5:00 pm
Spartan Skin @ MSU Union Art Gallery | East Lansing | Michigan | United States

SPARTAN SKIN

Young Joon Kwak | April 9 – May 21, 2021

Guarded on game day and integral to graduation photographs, the bronze cast of Leonard Jungwirth’s 1945 Spartan statue is the central symbol of Michigan State University.  The Spartan is an exemplary body, an icon of race, gender, and physical fitness that reflects the university’s ideal virtues of tenacity and will. Arriving at MSU in the wake of a national reckoning with white supremacy that often used debate about historical monuments as a proxy for broader questions of justice, 2020-21 Artist-in-Residence in Critical Race Studies Young Joon Kwak models a different approach to public art. The artist takes a recuperative attitude toward the Spartan statue, while opening the symbol to careful consideration. What does it mean, Kwak’s work asks, to identify a university campus that reflects our diverse society with any one icon?

Having made molds of portions of the statue’s exterior, Kwak created sculptures in cold-cast metals that remake the Spartan’s skin. The artist lavishes attention on the statue’s surface, preserving details that show evidence of Jungwirth’s hand and draw attention to subtle fan interactions. Kwak’s sculptures include impressions left by the pennies glued to the statue by athletes seeking good luck. Surrounding the casts are a series of monumental prints made from the molds, in which the Spartan’s body deviates further from his original form. Presented in fragments, and in works that demand contemplation, Kwak provides a site for careful reconsideration of the meaning of the Spartan. Spartan Skin opens to the public on Friday, April 9 beginning at 12 pm at the MSU Union Art Gallery.

Young Joon Kwak (b. 1984 in Queens, NY) is the 2020 – 2021 Artist-in-Residence in Critical Race Studies at Michigan State University. Kwak is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Los Angeles, CA, and Lansing, MI, who primarily uses sculpture, performance, video, and community-based collaborations to reimagine bodies and the power structures that govern our everyday lives as mutable and permeable sites of agency. Kwak is the lead performer in the electronic-dance-noise band Xina Xurner, and the founder of Mutant Salon, a roving platform for collaborative installations and performances with their queer/trans/POC/mutant community.