Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present Regional Painting, our second solo exhibition by New York artist Christopher K. Ho. In this richly layered show, Ho calibrates fiction, fact, and figment into a precarious universe, at the center of which is one Hirsch E.P. Rothko, an anagram of the artist’s name. The invention of and creations by this shadow artist—a performance, twelve paintings, and a ghostwritten memoir—deploy conceptual art against itself to liberate Ho from its self-imposed constraints, and collectively propose regional painting as a viable model for contemporary practice.
License Plate Shed (2009-10) frames the exhibition. Part endurance art, part experiment, part polemic, it consists of Ho’s yearlong sojourn in a remote mountain town in southwestern Colorado. Working and living in a 700-square foot shed covered in license plates, the artist allowed himself to become vulnerable to the region’s ideas—one might say the ideology of regionalism. The attendant suspension of criticality—both in the sense of being critical and of having art-historical knowledge—encouraged different modes of ‘critical’ to emerge.
In the twelve Untitled (2001/2010) paintings, Ho allowed himself to unselfconsciously paint. Their lack of pursuit of originality or polemic paradoxically underscores their authenticity. A third term between and beside avant-garde and rear-guard, regional painting’s flank position allows for it to accidentally comment on the mainstream. Regional art proposes alternatives not by willful acts of judgment, but by alliteration of and variation on art that is proximate but not entirely accessible. Under its rubric, an artist’s relationship to his contemporaries and forbears is communal rather than competitive. That Ho felt comfortable enough to revisit painting after a ten-year hiatus is a result of regionalism’s nurture rather than a reconnection with nature.
By replacing derivation—borne of lack of imagination—with emulation—a generous and generative act—Ho alleviates the ‘anxiety of influence’ and thus the need for the defensive maneuvers of conventional critique, including negation, subversion, irony, and even parafiction. This allows for other strong subjectivities in the creative process—an amplification of Ho’s longtime commitment to collaboration. Such is the case with Hirsch E.P. Rothko by Hirsch E.P. Rothko (2010), a memoir of Ho/Rothko’s Colorado sojourn ghostwritten by Inez Kruckev, who had creative latitude; Ho’s only contribution was a polemic about regionalism embedded in the narrative.
In Hirsch E.P. Rothko’s own words, from the memoir: “Regionalism is not a style, but a mode of and model for making. It not so much aims to suspend the viewer’s disbelief as it enables an artist to suspend his self-consciousness. The suspension of criticality, whether reflexive or deconstructive, opens a fictive space where a conceptual artist can be a painter, a painter a writer, a dealer a publisher….”
Christopher K. Ho (b. 1974, Hong Kong) has had solo exhibitions at Winkleman Gallery (2008) and GALERIA EDS in Mexico City. He was included in the 2009 Incheon Biennial, the 2008 Busan Biennale, and the 2008 Chinese Biennial. He has participated in group exhibitions at the Queens Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Dallas Contemporary, MASSMoCA at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens and the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art; and internationally at the Freies Museum in Berlin, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Srpska, and the Other Gallery in Shanghai. He received his B.F.A. and B.S. from Cornell University and his M.Phil from Columbia University.