The arc of Terence Koh’s career has gone something like this: from the filthy brilliance of selling his gold-leafed feces for half-a-million dollars at Art Basel Miami Beach, to the self-denying rite of crawling around a mountain of salt on his knees—eight hours a day, every day of the exhibition—at Mary Boone Gallery.
The Canadian artist, who was born in Beijing, developed a name for himself with his artistic alter ego “asianpunkboy,” but has seemingly revoked his naughtier tendencies for an ascetic approach to art making. Before the infamous mountain of salt, Koh had moved to upstate New York in an apparent escape of the city’s excess. Since then, he’s kept a very low profile.
Koh’s new exhibition, titled terence koh: bee chapel, is at Andrew Edlin Gallery in the Lower East Side. The show builds on the artist’s shift to more peaceful subjects, focusing on nature, the cosmos, and the precarious state of the honeybee. The front of the gallery contains an array of signage carried by the procession that kicked off the exhibition, as well as framed works containing honeycombs on the walls. There’s also a humble offering of tea.
The three rooms beyond the front one contain dirt-covered floors, each one a distinct meditation. The first room contains an apple tree that was dying in an orchard, now in the process of being resuscitated and bathed in red light. In the second, a simple candle lit at both ends is all that illuminates the intensely dark room. In the third is the bee chapel, which visitors are invited to visit, one at a time, after leaving their cell phone in a box and removing their shoes before entering.
Rather than ruining the exhibition with more explicit description, we suggest visiting for yourself and taking your time in the gallery. Be sure to read the text in the front room before passing through the curtained doorway—it playfully illuminates the purposes of the different elements of the show, such as the low rumbling sounds. Koh, who used to be known for his lavish overindulgence, is taking a wholly different route to art, one that’s focused on the nature of life, death, and the universe.
No matter your personal aesthetic taste, chances are you’ll feel the vibrations he’s tapping into.
terence koh: bee chapel
May 21 – July 1, 2016
Andrew Edlin Gallery
212 Bowery, New York, NY 10012