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Systems features four artists—Julie Mehretu, Kimsooja, John Baldessari, and Allan McCollum—who invent new grammars and logics, finding comfort in some systems while rebelling against others in todays supercharged, information-based society. Whether through acts of appropriation, repetition, or accumulation, the artists in this episode realize projects both vast in scope and beyond comprehension.More information and credits
Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Associate Curator: Wesley Miller. Production Manager: Nick Ravich. Production Coordinator: Larissa Nikola-Lisa. Consulting Director: Charles Atlas. Editor: Lizzie Donahue. Director of Photography: Robert Elfstrom, Ian Serfontein, Joel Shapiro, Martial Barrault, Richard Kane, & Richard Numeroff. Additional Photography: Sam Henriques & Bryan Hithe. Sound: Tom Bergin, Ray Day, Roger Phenix, Paul Stadden, & Merce Williams. Assistant Camera: Clair Popkin, Michael Pruitt-Bruun, Jean-Pierre Vial, Kenny Weinberg, & James Weinheimer. Field Producer: Mariana Valdrighi Amaral. On Screen Interviews: Sarah Rentz, Harmony Murphy, Erika Fortner, Damien Young, Jessica Rankin, Brienne Arrington, Analia Saban, Larry Little, & Horace Varnum.
Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Direction & Design: Open, New York. Graphics Animation: Maurice Caicedo & Urosh Perishic. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie. Composer: Peter Foley. Voice-Over Artist: Jace Alexander. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins & Greg Smith. Sound Mix: Cory Melious. Artwork Animation: Frank Ferrigno. Assistant Editor: Ahmed Amer, Janine Cappadona, Paulo Padilha, Joaquin Perez, Leana Siochi, & Ken Yapelli.
Artworks Courtesy of: John Baldessari; Kimsooja; Allan McCollum; Julie Mehretu; Electronic Arts Intermix; Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York; Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange, Germany; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; & The Project, New York. Archival Footage Courtesy of: Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels; Agustina Covian; Kimsooja Studio, New York; Thaddeus Seymour & Polly Seymour Gnagy.
Special Thanks: 601Artspace, New York; Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Gert-Jan Akerboom; Vera Alemani; The Art21 Board of Trustees; ARTASIA; Artful Heirlooms; Michael Ashburn; Aunt Holly’s Copper Cookie Cutters; Catherine Belloy; Bienal de São Paulo; Pat Casteel and Steve Wylie; Colby Bird; Kajette Bloomfield; Paul Brewer; Travis Call; Karla Braun; Jacob Cohen; Ralph Cuccurullo; Phil Curtis; Janna de Haen; Dog Bark Sound; Melissa Dubbin; Eike Dürrfeld; Frame:Runner, NYC; Rashell George; Claudia Gerhaeusser; Cormac Graham; Dr. Martin Hentschel; David Howe; Carl Johns; Anna Elise Johnson; Annice Kessler; Eric Kuhl; Holly Little; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Sheila Lynch; Roland Moreau; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Muriel Nestler; Ana Otero; Celina Paiz; Marcie Paper; Laura Piasta; Tracy Powell; Prospect.1 New Orleans; Anthony Reach; Inken Reinert; Repeat Impressions; Allie Rex; Andre Ribuoli; Adele Röder; Penelope Santana; Anette Schmitt; Larry Schmitt; Susan Schneider; Karen Schoellkopf; Kim Schoenstadt; Claire Schulte-Heuthaus; Keith Shapiro; Sound Lounge; Felipe Taboada; Charlotte Uslar; Noella Varnum; Amanda Vietta; Jacopo Crivelli Visconti; Tony Volante; Mechthild Von Laue; & Viola A. Yesiltaç.
Additional Art21 Staff: Beth Allen, Mary Cook, Joe Fusaro, Jessica Hamlin, Jennifer H. Lee, Marc Mayer, Jonathan Munar, Katherine Payne, Kelly Shindler, & Sara Simonson.
Interns: Maggie Bordonaro, Krystle DeMauro, Natalia P. Good, Sophie Grant, Pinchang Huang, Joy Lai, Rachele Lam, Jamie Leonardi, Melanie K. Mambo, Pauli Ochi, Sara Odam, David Roesing, Nicole Ross, Nicole Sansone, & Julia Wright.
Public Relations: Goodman Media International. Station Relations: De Shields Associates, Inc. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman. Bookkeeper: Valerie Riley. Travel Agent: Lita Gottesman.
Major underwriting for Art in the Twenty-First Century Season Five provided by: National Endowment for the Arts; Public Broadcasting Service; Agnes Gund; Bloomberg; The Nathan Cummings Foundation; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; The Broad Art Foundation; Korea Foundation; & The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.
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Applying strategies of mass production to handmade objects, Allan McCollum’s labor-intensive practice questions the intrinsic value of the unique work of art. McCollum’s installations—fields of vast numbers of small-scale works, systematically arranged—are the product of many tiny gestures, built up over time. Viewing his work often produces a sublime effect—as one slowly realizes that the dizzying array of thousands of identical-looking shapes is, in fact, composed of subtly different, distinct things. Economical in form, yet curious in function, his work and mechanical-looking processes are infused with humor and humility.
Synthesizing photomontage, painting, and language, John Baldessari’s deadpan visual juxtapositions equate images with words and illuminate, confound, and challenge meaning. He upends commonly held expectations of how images function, often by drawing the viewer’s attention to minor details, absences, or the spaces between things. By placing colorful dots over faces, obscuring portions of scenes, or juxtaposing stock photographs with quixotic phrases, he injects humor and dissonance into vernacular imagery.
Julie Mehretu’s paintings and drawings refer to elements of mapping and architecture, achieving a calligraphic complexity that resembles turbulent atmospheres and dense social networks. Architectural renderings and aerial views of urban grids enter the work as fragments, losing their real-world specificity and challenging narrow geographic and cultural readings. The paintings’ wax-like surfaces—built up over weeks and months in thin translucent layers—have a luminous warmth and spatial depth. Her works engage the history of nonobjective art—from Constructivism to Futurism—posing contemporary questions about the relationship between utopian impulses and abstraction.
Kimsooja’s videos and installations blur the boundaries between aesthetics and transcendent experience through their use of repetitive actions, meditative practices, and serial forms. In many pieces, everyday actions—such as sewing or doing laundry—become two- and three-dimensional or performative activities. Central to her work is the “bottari,” a traditional Korean bed cover used to wrap and protect personal belongings, which Kimsooja transforms into a philosophical metaphor for structure and connection. While striking for their vibrant color and density of imagery, Kimsooja’s works emphasize metaphysical changes within the artist-as-performer as well as the viewer.