Collection Artwork
Michael Joo (born Ithaca, New York, 1966)
Untitled (DRWN)
cast graphite-embedded urethane
dimensions variable
right crane leg: 28 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.
left crane leg: 28 x 4 1/4 x 11 1/4 in.
installed size (approximate): 108 x 10 1/4 x 11 1/2 in.
Gift of Ruth and William S. Ehrlich

Installation views

Object Label

The path of faint lines drawn directly on the wall terminates with a pair of disembodied African crane legs. Using the legs themselves—made of graphite and urethane—a human hand drew these delicate lines. The artist has said, “It’s the mark of the hand that placed them there and is simultaneously eroding them away.” This refers to both a literal duality: the more the artwork is shown, the more it will wear away and the more fragile it becomes; but also a figurative duality: graphite—a carbon-based compound—reminds us that carbon is the basis of all life. Yet increased carbon emissions and human expansion and other interventions damage the natural environment and put many species, including the African crane, at risk of extinction.

A poignant reminder of the ephemerality of life, the legs also suggest fossilization. Is extinction and fossilization the crane’s inevitable end, making space for a new beginning, or should we look to science to save it? Is the mixing of nature and science too closely dangerous? The crane legs look feeble, but, able to draw along the wall, are they stronger than we realize?

From the exhibition: Other Side:
Art, Object, Self (August 12, 2017 – January 3, 2018)

Ongoing Research

Research on our collection is ongoing. If you have resources you’d like to share, please contact Associate Curator Rebecca McNamara.

Tang Collective Catalog

“It’s the mark of the hand that placed them there and is simultaneously eroding them away,” says artist Michael Joo. Joo presents us with a tricky scenario: The more often these delicate African crane legs (made of graphite and urethane) are displayed, the more they erode. That being said, the less they’re displayed, the fewer people are exposed to the lessons Joo is trying to spread. We’ve been having some challenging and imperative conversations about race and identity in our Black Theater class at Skidmore, but I think the same sentiment holds. While these discussions can easily fall apart at the seams, what’s more important is the fact that we’re being exposed to them and all of the teachings that they carry.
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