Please read my article on a remarkable exhibition by this talented artist. And if you'll be in Bolzano soon, by all means go see it!


Korakrit Arunanondchai's (b. 1986) first solo exhibition in Italy “Painting with history 3 or two thousand five hundred and fifty nine years to figure stuff out” at the Museion in Bolzano foregrounds personal and collective memory and the transformation thereof in the digital age.

The Thailand-born, internationally-educated multi-media artist's oeuvre draws on myriad art historical references, yet also adds a Southeast Asian viewpoint to the pastiche and eclecticism favored by his global millennial peers. This exhibition showcases Arunanondchai's diverse practice of painting, video and installation in which he often proffers loosely autobiographical narratives.

On the ground floor of the Museion, Arunanondchai opens with the monumental Large History Paintings (Poetry Floor.) Backing the holes in his denim supports with digital photographs of the very flames he used to scorch them, he memorializes the works' own making. The huge scale and gestural brushwork nod to Abstract Expressionism, but Arunanondchai adds body outlines a la Yves Klein and embedded jeans. In the Italian context, these works evoke Alberto Burri's poetic garment-affixed works; but while Burri's incorporated clothing as a mementori mori to the defunct Italian textile industry in the post-war period, Arunanondchai, presents a tongue- in-cheek critique of the ubiquity of the denim uniform amongst global youths.[1]

Upstairs, Arunanondchai presents the conclusion to his Bildungsroman video series Painting with History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 3. The artist's alter ego - the Denim Painter - stars in these films in which fact and fiction, and East and West collide. Referencing the aforementioned Western sources along with Thai Modernists, the protagonist creates a world in which contemporary tools like drones that create sweeping bird's eye vistas, and rap music convey commentary on the life cycle and Thai spirituality. The title refers to his own hard-to-pronounce Thai name, or to the names of Western artists that Thais struggle with. Arunanondchai always collaborates with others, among them friends and family members, musicians, seamstresses and technically skilled workers.

Arunanondchai's installation is compelling. Visitors recline on denim pillows to watch the film in a room where bright colored filters placed in every window intensify the ambient light. Works presented in double-sided metal frames reference the video; in one mirrored painting, figures pose beside a bonfire of denim in a rural setting. When the colored light is reflected in the mirror, the viewer's experience of the artificially-enhanced illumination is accentuated. The colored light also shines on the verso - an installation/sculpture made of post-combustion debris and metal - and a scene that could evoke a post-apocalyptic nightmare is transformed and set beautifully aglow.

Museion, Bolzano, Italy. Through September 11th.


[1]   Jaimey Hamilton, "Making Art Matter: Alberto Burri’s Sacchi," October 124 (Spring 2008): 51, accessed: 04/02/2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40368499.