Canadian artist Terence Koh is known for his provocative sculptures, installations, and performances that combine themes of desire, fantasy, youthfulness, and decay. His works are not specifically autobiographical, but express the artist’s identity and sexuality through a personal mythology and aesthetic sensibility that oscillates between baroque opulence and minimalist asceticism. In past installations he has filled hundreds of vitrines with objects—food, kitschy toys, expensive china and jewels, tourist trinkets, movie paraphernalia, classical sculpture, and rubbish—covered by white or black paint, or gilded with gold leaf. Displayed in stark white-on-white galleries, the sealed vitrines become hermetic environments for contemplation or even mourning as these silenced objects of ritual, play, and aesthetic devotion seem to have reached some form of transcendent afterlife. In other exhibitions Koh has enacted ritualistic performances. For a five-week solo show in 2011 at Mary Boone Gallery, New York, he slowly circled a cone-shaped pile of white salt—8 feet high and 24 feet across—on his knees, continuously for the duration of the exhibition. Koh’s performances and installations have been linked to the durational performances of Marina Abramovic as well as the antics of Dadaist provocateurs of the early twentieth century.
Children of the Corn, Totem Pole is a 25-foot pole topped by a Janus-faced male portrait (perhaps of the artist) with extended rabbit-like ears. Rabbits frequently appear in Koh’s work and the artist has been known to wear white bunny ears with his customary all-white clothing. The sculpture’s title refers to a short story by American horror fiction author Stephen King about a forsaken farm town taken over by a cult. In 2009 Koh first placed a series of the Children of the Corn sculptures in a corn field in East Hampton adding harvest emblems, like corn husks, at their base. At deCordova a single sculpture from the series is installed on the Museum’s terrace, so that the double-faced portrait surveys the rolling lawn of the Sculpture Park, in one direction, and Flint’s Pond, in the other. While no sound emits from the sculpture’s gaping mouths, the figure gives the impression of issuing forth a muted call in both directions.
Born in Beijing in 1977, Koh grew up outside of Toronto, Canada, and studied architecture at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. He lived New York City during the 1990s, as well as London, where he worked on a design team in the studio of architect Zaha Hadid. Koh has had solo exhibitions at major museums and arts centers including a mid-career retrospective at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, Leon, Spain, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Kunsthalle Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland. During the late 2000s, Koh also became known for crossing over into fashion, internet, and celebrity culture, claiming that he wanted to “change history, not just to change art history, but to change what society could be.” In the early 2010s, the artist moved to upstate New York and has since distanced himself from his notorious and self-described asianpunkboy persona.