"He was continually unprepared for class, and his examples were irrelevant and boring," one student wrote in a teacher evaluation for Joe Park. From another student, Park got this response to a question about the best part of the class: "The hotness." Both of those are hanging on the wall at the Cornish College of the Arts Gallery, a subterranean space that has become pleasantly unquiet in the months since curator Jess Van Nostrand took over.
The Hotness: A Sort of Retrospective is packed with stuff: personal student IDs, featuring inadvisable hair fashions, from the eight art schools Park attended; elegant drawings of nudes in clear-plastic sleeves taped to the wall; framed prints and charcoal drawings; a 1988 video of a kinetic sculpture that climbs a slide, then slides back down; a "pimiento chair" (it has a red center) and a folding lamp; a delicate abstract wall sculpture made of ovals of plastic and blue highlighter; a copy of Sam Durant's 1990s Klein diagram with terms including "Entropy," "Scatological Structures," "Neil Young," and "Kurt Cobain," updating the famous art historian Rosalind Krauss's hard-nosed Klein diagram from her 1970s essay "Sculpture in the Expanded Field"; an affectionate drawing of Park's grandmother's house in Seoul, Korea; a bucket of water representing an ill-fated performance piece that got Park banned from a venue; copies of the Dan Clowes comic Art School Confidential—oh, and some paintings, both early (more cartoon-influenced) and recent (especially a Pollock-influenced tree and a wispy portrait of Seattle artist Alfred Harris against a buttery background). The show also has a fun, artist-narrated ("omg, this was probably the worst idea ever") online catalog.
Park is an established artist who was a good enough sport to expose the underbelly of his career—the perfect subject for the kind of retrospective Van Nostrand wants to do. She's planning these once a year; she hasn't chosen next year's artist yet. In addition to showing a new side to someone familiar, Van Nostrand intends the retrospectives to demonstrate that an artist's career is not the smooth, straight trajectory you see in the standard survey, with everything unsightly tucked (or thrown) away. Here the studio is turned upside down and put out on the curb to see. The pleasure is simple and clear.