Forget Eiffel or Pisa, the original mover and shaker of awe-inspiring edifices was the Tower of Babel, the would-be attempt of ambitious Biblical folks trying to literally reach out to the heavens by building an immensely tall structure—pissing off Yahweh in the process. Evoking this Old Testament hubris and riffing off a quote from English scholar-writer Robert Burton (who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621), L.A.-based Korean American artist Kyungmi Shin brings Babel: The Chaos of Melancholy to the Pitzer Art Galleries in Claremont. Centered around a 25-foot, floor-to-second-floor installation of building materials and found objects, the work also features video footage of Dubai and clips of a shantytown near the artist’s studio in Ghana. The installation is specific to this Pitzer College exhibition so words like “one of a kind” apply here. The artist’s use of recycled and scrap materials serve as metaphors for the poverty-stricken and makeshift characteristics of the slums and favelas most of us forget are often the rule rather than the exception in certain parts of the world. Through the filter of scrap metals and photo collages, Shin’s latest conceptual project tackles head-on the daunting and dizzying questions of class and global politics, wealth and poverty that ensnare our world. God help us now.
Babel: The Chaos of Melancholy at the Pitzer Art Galleries, Nichols Gallery, Broad Center, Pitzer College, 1050 North Mills Ave., Claremont, (909) 607-8767, www.pitzer.edu/galleries. Opening reception Thur. July 16, 5-8PM. Thru Sept. 11. Gallery hours, Tues.-Fri., noon-5PM.