Terence Koh at Andrew Edlin Gallery
Images: Charles Roussel & Olya Vysotskaya
May 29 2016
Terence Koh opened a new show last week at Andrew Edlin Gallery in Manhattan. For the uninitiated, Koh is an artist who has been most (in)famous for some highly precious works of bodily secretion, for proclaiming himself “the Naomi Campbell of the art world” to NYT T Magazine, and then for very publicly quitting said art world shortly thereafter.
A few months ago, however, rumors began to circulate that he was set to stage a comeback, and we were very happy to hear that our friends at Andrew Edlin would be hosting the return. Just what form it would take remained a mystery until a few weeks ago, when a mini mountain of rich, black earth appeared on the Bowery in front of the gallery’s space. Slowly but surely over the next few days, the mountain was hauled load by load into the interior, where it now coats almost the entirety of the usually pristine gallery floor, much like the fertile topsoil, I imagine, at the bucolic Catskills residence where Koh is said to have spent his retirement.
Bee Chapel is centered, as its name suggests, on a sanctuary for honey bees – a replica of one which Koh had earlier built at his home – erected in the space that normally houses Edlin’s office in the rear of the gallery. Since the show’s opening with a peaceful march through Manhattan, the art press has predictably been abuzz (ahem) with commentary, so we’ll leave the actual reviewing to the actual critics this time – pieces on the show at The New York Times and Blouin Artinfo, a conversation with the artist on Artforum and a play-by-play of the opening by Anthony Haden-Guest should round out your Sunday morning reading nicely.
Suffice it to say, the show is most definitely worth an in-person visit – beyond the intriguing bee chapel itself (filled with real screened off bees making real honey) and the fun of seeing a major gallery filled with dirt, highlights include sonic works by Koh, an apple tree connected to an EEG monitor, and the fact that the entire production is powered by solar panels.
The show feels wise, expansive, and reflective of a Terence Koh very different from the one the world was acquainted previously. Bee Chapel evokes the socially- and environmentally-conscious work of artists like Fritz Haeg and his Edible Estates, rather than the sensational, too-cool-for-school art market stunts of a young artists given the status of enfant terrible. And a serious, visible rumination on the interconnectedness of life and energy – specifically on the honey bee and its very real danger of extinction – as well as a highly visible show run entirely on solar power, feel exactly right at the height of a season in which one U.S. presidential candidate refuses to acknowledge climate change at all.
Bee Chapel runs through July 1 at Andrew Edlin Gallery at 212 Bowery in New York City. Should you happen to be interested in a replica bee chapel of your own, the gallery just might be able to help you out.
Special thanks, as always, to Phillip March Jones.