NAM JUNE PAIK
February 12 - March 14, 2015
James Cohan Gallery is pleased to present the multi-monitor, sculptural installation M200/Video Wall, (1991) by the visionary and peripatetic artist Nam June Paik, along with selected works from the early 1990s. The exhibition opens on February 12 and runs through March 14, 2015. The Korean-born artist died at age 73 in January 2006.
Nam June Paik is commonly hailed as the “father” of new media art for his discoveries in music, video, performance, television broadcast and technological experimentation. He balanced a Utopian philosophy with a technical pragmatism and a subversive sense of humor, creating works that drew on chance encounters between ideas, the object and the public.
John Handhart, Paik scholar and curator of the Guggenheim Museum’s seminal exhibition The World of Nam June Paik in 2000 said, “Paik's prolific and complex career can be read as a process grounded in his early interests in composition and performance.” Paik trained as a classical pianist and studied composition at University of Tokyo. His undergraduate thesis on Arnold Schonberg ignited his interest in the avant-garde and prompted his move to Germany in 1956. Shortly after, Paik met Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage, and quickly became immersed in the electronic music scene. Cage encouraged Paik to come to New York, where the artist became a key participant in the Fluxus movement.
During a visit to his family in Japan in 1962, Paik built his first robot from his cousin’s remote control toys (and his mother’s bra.) The name of the robot K456 refers to the Köchel catalog number of Mozart’s well-known piano concerto, thereby tracing a thread from classicism to the avant-garde.
In 1991, Paik again paid tribute to Mozart in his large-scale video wall sculpture M200, which was made on the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. Paik arranged 86 television monitors into a wall-sized sculpture, which plays simultaneous videos of Mozart, John Cage and Joseph Beuys, in a continuous loop. The monitors are arranged in an almost fractal pattern, with 16 monitors forming a unit and singular images combining to form overall pictures. At certain moments, the video sequences come together into one expanded image. The soundtrack was arranged by Paik and includes the music of Mozart, pop tunes and instrumental compositions. Image and music move together in synchronized rhythm. The constantly switching video and sound are experienced as “moving wall paintings” and give realization to Nam June Paik’s 1965 prediction that, “The cathode-ray tube will someday replace the canvas.”