‘Mansudae Overseas Project’, 2013
Polyurethane, carrara marble powder, jade powder, copper powder, graphite powder, aluminium powder, fluorescent pigment, activated carbon
72 x 27 x 25 cm
Oliver Laric’s sculptures are unique casts made from a bronze statue commissioned from North Korea’s Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang. The art studio’s 4,000 employees are officially sanctioned by the North Korean state to portray the Kim family dynasty, producing propaganda paintings, billboards and Socialist Realist monuments deifying the Kims. However, Mansudae's role in the North Korean propaganda machine surpasses serving as court painter for the autocratic Kim family; the studio also runs a multi-million-dollar side business: designing and fabricating monuments, sports stadiums and at least one palace for countries including Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Syria and Zimbabwe, among others.
Laric is the only individual in its 50-year history to have hired the Mansudae studio to create a private sculptural commission. Contrary to the typical state requests to create glorious larger than life-sized monuments, Laric commissioned a modestly-scaled, seemingly apolitical, neutral figurative sculpture – where in fact, the resulting work is unquestionably loaded with deep societal and political meaning.
The commissioned bronze, first rendered in clay, its development intermittently tracked and finally approved by Laric, was then shipped from Pyongyang to China, onward to Hamburg, where it was subjected to scrutinous examination by German Customs, before being trucked to Kassel. ‘Mansudae Overseas Project’, as titled by Laric, was recently on display in Speculations on Anonymous Materials at the Fridericianum in Kassel, curated by museum director, Susanne Pfeffer. The works to be showcased at Art Basel Miami Beach are unique casts in coloured polyurethane, florescent pigment, and copper, jade and marble powder. Laric’s versioned sculptures are literal representations of a contemporary transmission of ideology. The artist’s treatment of politics, commercialization and historical revisionism are unified in the quarter-scale Socialist Realist sculpture – a representation of anachronism, patriotism and the shifting criteria used to evaluate art.