Mimi O Chun: It’s all cake
Sep 4, 2021 - Jan 23, 2022
New York-based artist Mimi O Chun’s soft sculptures act as moments in which we are most accurately able to glimpse ourselves and the world in which we live.
New York-based artist Mimi O Chun’s first solo museum exhibition presents all-new soft sculptures produced over the past year and a half—a time marked by the global COVID-19 pandemic, a polarized political climate, and a civil uprising for racial justice. Chun explains that “these cultural, political, and economic winds formed a perfect storm that have exposed and exacerbated the structural inequities of a late capitalist economy.” The soft sculptures in Mimi O Chun: It’s all cake prompt viewers to reexamine the reality of this time, reckoning with illusions influenced by popular culture and consumerism. For example, the plush sculpture Prime Hermit (2021) is a handmade version of a single-use delivery envelope—white with bright blue text and a yellow sticker—that once held an item ordered from Amazon. Inside the discarded package is a stuffed coral-colored hermit crab peeking out from its repurposed home. The sculpture is simultaneously adorable and disturbing as it points to human consumption and its effect on the natural environment. One might find a sympathetic connection with the hermit crab when considering the way in which the COVID-19 pandemic required us to seek shelter and use online ordering to avoid interactions with others.
The title, It’s all cake, speaks to the excess of physical goods, entertainment, and news headlines that we are conditioned to consume online. In the limitless world of the Internet, flashy personalized ads lead to impulse purchases and viral videos distract from the profound issues facing our world today. For example, enter “illusion cake”—cakes made to look like everyday objects—into any search engine and one will find endless images, videos, and blogs dedicated to this obscure genre. One could get lost watching the satisfying, and often unsettling, videos of knives slicing into common items, like a toilet paper roll, to reveal the soft fluffy inside. It’s all cake! Not unlike Queen Marie Antoinette in 18th century France, who infamously stated “let them eat cake” in response to the famine and political unrest amongst her people, which led to the French Revolution and ultimately her execution. Moments in history where political leaders distance their ideologies from the reality of their constituents feels strangely familiar in 21st century United States. At the beginning of 2020, political leaders intentionally diverted attention from serious issues, such as the spread of the coronavirus and racial injustice, and redirected it toward mistrust of the news (fake news), among other things. If Marie Antoinette were around today, she might proclaim “let them watch illusion cake memes” distracting from the crucial topics of our time and making way for illusion to rule.
This exhibition is part of the series PROJECT SPACE—an initiative that supports emerging and established artists in expanding their practice. Organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) and curated by Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art.
Mimi O Chun
Mimi O Chun is an artist and designer based in New York. Her work has been published in Fast Company, Bon Appétit, White Zinfandel, Gather Journal, and Makeshift magazine. Chun is a frequent lecturer and critic at various universities such as Parsons School of Design at The New School and The Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) at Columbia University. She earned her bachelor of fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University and master of fine arts from Yale School of Art.
View the bilingual (English/Spanish) publication for Mimi O Chun: It’s all cake.
Artwork by Mimi O Chun. Essay by Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art.
Related Press Releases
Mimi O Chun in the press
Scottsdale Progress interviewed curator Lauren R. O’Connell about It’s all cake, Sept. 26, 2021.
CITYSunTimes featured It’s all cake in “Mimi O Chun’s First Solo Exhibition on View at SMoCA” on Sept. 4, 2021.
PHOENIX Magazine‘s The PHiX included It’s all cake in a roundup of “Local Art News | September 2021.”
So Scottsdale! magazine writes about Mimi O Chun: It’s all cake in “Art Imitating Life,” September 2021 issue.
Modern Luxury Scottsdale magazine included Mimi O Chun: It’s all cake in a roundup of “4 Must-See Art Exhibits,” September 2021 issue.
“New art for the new year: Metro Phoenix museums, galleries have exciting shows scheduled” on Arizona Republic, Dec. 16, 2020.