The Birth of Venus

ARTFORUM Review by Christina Catherine Martinez
The Ambition of Wellness by Petra Bibeau
As It Stands, Los Angeles, 2020
P.Bieau, Brooklyn, 2021

Press Release
P.Bibeau is pleased to present The Birth of Venus by Haena Yoo, an artist based in Los Angeles and Seoul. This presentation is the second iteration of The Birth of Venus, the first which took place in Los Angeles in 2019. This occasion marks Yoo's first New York exhibition.

Alive in this sculptural installation is Yoo's contemplation on the witnessing of her mother’s struggle with cancer. Through regular consumption of Western medicine (reliance on invasive surgeries and treatments), and Eastern medicine (reliance on herbs and vitamins), Yoo watched her mother osculate between remedies, placing belief in anything that promised longevity. This determination resulted in a collection of theories and routines that kept her mind focused on what could be obtained to reduce the harm of an impending decline. 

Modern life insults the spiritual. Botticelli's Birth of Venus intermingled the contemplation of physical beauty in direct relation to spiritual beauty, this presents a grievous cultural dilemma. Where the body expresses change by time, or further, a slight view into death, therein lies a desire for suspension.
The Birth of Venus compiles a physical record of contemporary ingredients drawn from synthetic cosmetics, plastic sculptural casings of powders, herbal tinctures, pills, oils, crystal wax, exfoliating masks, creams, fake eyelashes, perfume samples, bottles of Estée Lauder's Advanced Night Repair serum, among photographs and texts from ‘Illness As Metaphor’ Susan Sontag (1978), and ‘My Mother Smiles’ by Chantal Akerman (2013), overseen by a ceramic distiller in the form of Venus of Willendorf.

The personification of both illness and age as individual failure is capitalized upon and various cures are marketed as a remedy for a real, uncontrollable biological response. The concentrated belief in surface preservation is a rejection of existence, suggesting the only route is one that minimizes the nonfiction of the event. In this definition 'wellness' is a highly coveted excess of ability, energy, and capital employed to transcend the physical: the truth of pain, death, living, the culpability of life's terms as seen on the body.

All photos by Michael Popp