Magazine article Artforum International

Jorge Pardo

Magazine article Artforum International

Jorge Pardo

Article excerpt

"Bulgogi," as Jorge Pardo's latest outing at Gagosian was cryptically titled, denotes a classic Korean dish of marinated barbecued meat. The name related most obviously to the show's centerpiece, Untitled (Drawing Room) (all works 2010), an enclosed pagoda-like structure made of wood--a form by now as familiar to Pardo's viewers as his signature lamps--that had been erected in the center of the gallery. As expected, the work's interior was furnished with new lamps, here tightly clustered to form a chandelier with undulating contours echoed by the shape of the pagoda itself, giving visitors the uncanny impression that they had come to look at lamps inside a lantern that itself was lit by gallery lighting. The conceit recalls Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, in which characters observe various models of the maze they inhabit--the aptly named Overlook Hotel--suggesting that the film is itself a miniature maze overseen by the audience.

Inside Pardo's vaguely geodesic pagoda, the connection between midcentury modernism and old-world Asian tradition was corroborated by walls hung salon style with Korean family portraits. Spanning various eras of photo processing, from black-and-white to color, these framed pictures seemed random at first; closer inspection revealed that in fact some faces appeared repeatedly, a few key figures at different stages in their lives. Further, the occasions commemorated were always overwhelmingly formal, the poses rarely candid, and the moments captured consistently underwritten by a narrative of exodus and assimilation. Pardo, whose own family immigrated to the United States from Cuba when he was six, has touched on this theme in prior works, but never so overtly.

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The overall personal nature of the exhibition was striking, but to describe it as autobiographically expressive would be going too far. Pardo's artistic success is attributable to the same rule that Walter Benjamin passed on to his son in "Berlin Chronicle": "Never use the word 'I' except in letters." And here the artist staged the archetypal American drama of displacement, naturalization, and class jumping that he himself has enacted in his own career, but with a crucial ethnic deflection. …

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