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Whitney Waller & SooHo Cho: BFA Fine Arts at NEXT

Framework

Whitney Waller is building a house. In a museum.

It’s a house you could see at an exurb housing development, coming up in raw softwood white pine in frames of twenty two inch spacing. Taking over the north atrium of the Corcoran’s Ernest Flagg-designed building, the two raised wall shells parallel the Doric columns rising around each of them, but only geometrically. Spatially, in contrast, they are sticks to the weighted masses of concrete, heightening the fragility of a domestic scene yet to play out.

 

Study for Desein

 

Waller has built the work, “Dasein,” before, in the nook of her studio, where its blue walls were the college and museum’s own walls. Here, she makes her own walls, and with them notes to “sand the (expletive) out of” a corner of a doorway. If there’s a sense of having been in the space, even, as it is, one full of dead leaves and cratered impressions of clay, it’s in the piece’s title itself.

There is a presence here. ‘Être la,’ “being” in the referential Heideggarian context, but the philosophy is not necessary to understand that the artist and the viewer have shared the same plane, the same spot in space. The piece is open: to the museum, with only two walls to its four sides. And it is open to the audience. She may walk through, rustle the leaves, and carry one with her to the adjacent gallery as if spreading a seed.

 

Keys, Tile, Braile: A triptych of materials

SooHo Cho and I are hanging paper keys, each with a loop of thread and a memory attached (“evidence of thoughts”), to a wall with thousands of hooks, one for each key. In what looks to be the hybrid of a darkroom, a stark airport bathroom and an OCD-perfected hardware store display, the undergraduate BFA candidate has created a sort of memorial to memory itself. We spoke as she finished her days-long installation work in a corridor of the Corcoran’s museum space built specifically for the project.

Unveiled: How did you get started with this piece for NEXT?

SooHo: It’s about time, memory, moments. My is all about remembering my identity, what I lost when I came to the US. My dad moved here with his work as a distribution manager for an exports company, and I came when I was 12 years olds, in sixth grade, 2 months before September 11th, 2001. I hadn’t really learned English until I came to college. There were so many Koreans in my community, and I spoke with my parents at home.

These are layers of memory. I wanted to appreciate memories from the past, any memories. Specifically, the ones that are harder to access.

Unveiled: Regret?

SooHo: “Sort of. I connect the key to the connection to unlock those moments. All the thoughts that hidden.”

“This is where the thoughts and moments gather together to create a memory. The coolness of the tiles, the privacy of the space of the bathroom. It’s important that you can see yourself in the tile as well, in its reflectivity. But it’s also like a pixel grid. The tile is like that grid, combining together to make a image. Everything is geometric in graphics. ”

The day of the opening, the artist is affixing a huge roll of braille text to the wall that falls off in to the room like a giant manifesto. In a perfect contrast to Waller’s work, she’s still deciding whether to require the audience to wear Tyvek paper booties so that they don’t scuff the floor of the space as they walk through. They are her memories, after all.

The NEXT Thesis Exhibition is opening tonight. NEXT undergraduate work is open April 9th through May 18th. The NEXT graduate opening is April 29th and joins the undergraduate until its close. 

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