Rather than speak generally about my art practice, which is wide ranging in my use of media and strategies, I would like to address two recent works in depth: a performance and accompanying video called The New Joys of Gellies, and an installation of photo collages printed on fabric titled Chinese Cooking the American Way.
The New Joys of Gellies
My performance The New Joys of Gellies was derived from my research on gelatin in the United States, from its early use in wartime rationing, to its emergence as a colorful object of desire, and arriving at its present-day inedible counterpart, slime: a goopy, stretchy mixture of glue and household chemicals like borax, baking soda, and contact solution that is often colored with dyes and glitter. It engaged notions of sacrifice, sensuality, and aspiration contained in the material properties and social history of gelatin in the United States in a series of fleshy, squishy gelatin action-vignettes.
Taking an operational cue from slime videos that circulate ubiquitously online, in The New Joys of Gellies I approach gelatin as an object of desire, caressing, kneading, prodding it, and experimenting with its material properties through touch. I commissioned my collaborator Williamson Brasfield to create a live musical composition for the piece, using sampled audio from the making and touching of the gelatin to merge the aesthetics of ASMR and experimental sound art. Imposing ephemeral destruction as one would with ever-expendable slime, I propeled my body into the rendered bodies of anonymous animals that transform from powder back into sinews and cartilage with the addition of hot water and kinetic energy.
In the 1943 Knox Wartime Recipes booklet “How to Be Easy on Your Ration Book” recipes including gelatin as a main ingredient were promoted as a way to enact a duty of citizenship: to maintain the bodies of young Americans, to stretch food, to avoid waste and the appearance of having less than is needed to live well. Mrs. Charles B. Knox – one of America’s earliest well known female CEOs who pioneered equal working conditions for women – wrote passionate calls to action about suspending leftover shreds of vegetables and bits of meat in gelatin rings complemented by dipping sauce. She created a new object of desire that was sparkling, fluffy, delicious, fun and easy, asking her readers: “What are you longing for?” and suggested that an illusion of “good American meals” could be nourishing and even delightful. By the 1950s gelatin molded salads were standard fare in cookbooks, by the early 1970s the Jello brand was looking to reinvigorate the perception of gelatin with colorful titles like “The New Joys of Jello”.
Molecular gastronomy and the ubiquity of food photos on Instagram have somewhat revived gelatin’s social relevance today, but the inedible substance slime is everything that Rose Knox made us believe in minus the rendered calves hooves. It can be made to smell and feel like desirable foods like yeasty bread loaves and fizzy Coca cola. It can crackle on the surface like the best creme brulee. It can fluff up with air bubbles like a rising cake. It can be chock full of plastic beads so that it “crunches” when handled. It cannot be eaten and thus – in theory – cannot make one sick like so much of the highly processed food Americans were taught to love and then to fear.
To watch the endless videos on Instagram of young people handling their slime is fascinating and often discomforting. There is something so clearly sensual in their pleasure, in their codified hand gestures of caressing, poking, squeezing and kneading. Who are we to watch them explore their sexuality on this public platform? How recognizable even is this post-internet, post-body sexuality? To play with gelatin as one would with slime is in effect to bring the body back into the equation. The rendered bodies of anonymous animals transform from powder back into sinews and cartilage with the addition of hot water and kinetic energy. Protein wants to stick together and form a mass. We could even eat it.
Chinese Cooking the American Way
Chinese Cooking the American Way is a series of printed collage works on fabric that look at a specific slice of North American cooking culture: Chinese cookbooks printed for Western audiences in the second half of the twentieth century.
The project’s first installment was a large tent designed for the first Happy Family Night Market in Bushwick. Hung radially in the tent’s interior were a series of cloth pages printed with collages that functioned like an open book. It made a space were visitors were encouraged to think about how cookbooks provide us with many different entry points into food and culture. The up-close encounter with images moving in the wind and caressing the viewer functioned as an analog for the intensity of feelings that many first and second generation immigrants have about food from their family’s culture.
The images and texts are drawn from vintage cookbooks published between the early 1960s and the late 1980s, partly drawn from my family’s collection. Some are part of the era’s marketing of exotic cuisines (from the 1963 Meals with an Oriental Flair: “a breeze to eat with chopsticks, if have the yen!”), while others, like the 1968 Cooking of China, take a more educational look at the ingredients, traditions, and festivals of “the world’s oldest civilization.”
Masters of Fine Art, School of Visual Arts, New York, NY, May 2014
Bachelor of Art (focus in Ceramics), Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX, May 2008
2019 Abrons Art Center, The New Joys of Gellies, New York, NY.
2018 Happy Family Night Market, Chinese Cooking the American Way, Brooklyn, NY. 2016 Motel, New Jin Guang II, Brooklyn, NY.
2013 Superchief Gallery, Juicy, Juicy Special Request Deluxe, New York, NY.
Eleven Seventeen Garland, Colorful Food, Austin, TX.
2012 Platform, Art Jam, with composer Nathan McKee, Brooklyn, NY. 2010 SOFA Gallery, Nesting, Austin, TX.
2009 Closet Box Gallery at Box 13 Artspace, Bawdy Issues, Houston, TX.
2019 Marvin Gardens, Flesh and Fantasy, Ridgewood, NY.
Grace Exhibition Space, Standing Arrangements, New York, NY. Recess, Beg Borrow Steal, Brooklyn, NY.
2018 Cuchifritos, Extremely absorbent and increasingly hollow, New York, NY. Woskob Family Gallery, Hold(ing) Tight, State College, PA.
PAD Gallery, Comi Duh!, New York, NY.
National Academy of Design, BombPop!Up presents HOW TO, New York, NY Malagana Macula, Manta de Sudor, Managua, Nicaragua.
203 Wilson Ave., Scratch ‘n Sniff Studio presents Saccharine Salad, Brooklyn, NY.
Lounge Corp, Psychic Jacuzzi, a jacuzzi somewhere in New Jersey and the Internet. 2017 Timeshare, Fun House, New York, NY.
Space Heater Gallery, ATM Cigarettes Flowers Lottery / God Bless Deli 2, Brooklyn, NY. GreenDoor, The Dating Game, Chicago, IL.
Young at Art Museum, Summer of Love, Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Lehman College Art Gallery, Alien Nations, Bronx, NY.
Abrons Arts Center, Abrons Faculty Exhibition 2017, New York, NY.
2016 Random Institute, All the Lights We Cannot See, Pyongyang, North Korea.
Paraiso Bajo, Sala de Espera, Bogotá, Colombia.
Nanjing International Art Festival, Historicode, Nanjing, China. 5 Anderson Street, Game Night, New Rochelle, NY.
E.Tay Gallery, VERBLIST, New York, NY.
Space Heater, Opening, Brooklyn, NY.
2015 Beverly’s, Yes & Know, New York, NY.
Sideshow Gallery, Plus One, Brooklyn, NY.
695 Grand St, NEW WORK, NEW YORK, Brooklyn, NY. NARS Foundation, The Dreams I Gave Her, Brooklyn, NY.
2014 Transformer, Promised Land, Asbury Park, NJ.
SVA Chelsea Gallery, Front and Center, New York, NY.
2013 UNTITLED Fair, Beverly’s VIP Lounge, Miami, FL.
Present Company, Antithesis, Curated by Omar Lopez-Chaoud, Brooklyn, NY.
Limited Time Only and Independent Curators International, MAD-LIB[rary] Vol. 3, New York, NY.
FUSE Art Infrastructure, NOW, Allentown, PA.
2011 CANADA, Dadarhea, New York, NY. 2010 OHWOW, Dadarhea, Miami, FL.
2016 Material Art Fair, Mini Bar, Performance, installation and curatorial project with Stina Puotinen, Mexico City, DF.
2013 Christopher Henry Gallery, Wearable Art Class, Video and sculpture with Riitta Ikonen, Yue Lin and members of the City Hall Senior Center, New York, NY.
2011 Co-Lab Project Space, MARFITA, Performance and installation with Josh Franco and Joshua Saunders, Austin, TX.
14-19 Faculty member and Program Coordinator, School of Visual Arts, Fine Arts MFA, New York, NY.
16-18 Instructor, Unsuitable Foods: Performative Cooking and Dining, Abrons Art Center, New York, NY.
13-16 Art Editor, Gigantic Magazine, Brooklyn, NY.
2019 Beardsley, Corinne, “ Gelatin Joy with Alison Kuo. ” Frontrunner Magazine, April 25. End Page, BOMB Issue 147 , Spring 2019.
2018 Healy, Claire Marie and Emma Orlow, “ A Seat at the Table. ” Dazed Magazine, Jan 5.
2016 “ Objecthood: conversation with Pamela Council, Leah Dixon, Alison Kuo, Michelle Segre, and Matthew Stone. ” TransBorder Art.
Shaw, Michael. “ Ep. #124: NYC-based artist Alison Kuo–food-based performances and human Connection. ” The Conversation Podcast, Jan. 23.
2014 Jurek, Irena. “ Alison Kuo. ” The Best of All Worlds, March 21.
2013 Sutton, Benjamin. “ Artists’ Editions Fly Off the Tables at the Third MAD-LIB[rary]
Portfolio-Making Party. ” Blouin Artinfo, July 18.
Franco, Josh. “ Interview: Alison Kuo. ” Zingchat, February.
Chan, Tracie. “Opening Friday: Colorful Food At Eleven Seventeen Garland.” Austinist, Geha, Katie. “2013 Spring Preview.” Glasstire, January 6th.
2011 Haj-Najafi, Daryoush. “Q + A on Accidental Chinese Hipsters.” VICE Style, August 19. Franco, Josh. “Two Friends Talking: Taking Shape.” 7 STOPS magazine, September. Jones, Leslie. “Accidental Chinese Hipsters.” That’s Shanghai magazine, October 31. “Instant LOL.” Glamour Magazine (France), November.
Van Ryzin, Jeanne Clarie. “A little take on Marfa’s culture clash.” Austin360, Oct 26. Wang, Connie. “Accidental Chinese Hipsters: Hippest of Them All?” Refinery29, June 10.