HARMONY KORINE’S "BLOCKBUSTER" REDEFINES THE VHS TAPE
Harmony Korine first came to public attention with his 1995 movie Kids, directed by Larry Clark. Written by Korine and famously starring Chloë Sevigny and Leo Fitzpatrick, the film deals explicitly with a group of teens in New York City, at the height of the AIDS crisis. The coming-of-age tale is as difficult to watch as it is brutally honest, a strength of Korine’s writing. Having made other films after Kids, including Gummo also with Sevigny in 1997, his last film, Spring Breakers, came out in 2013.
More than two decades from his first project Korine is back, reminding us that not only is he a strong director and screenwriter but also an artist. This is evident with his latest creative pursuit, BLOCKBUSTER, a solo exhibition opening at Gagosian Gallery in New York this month. BLOCKBUSTER, like the name suggests, will feature a series of works based on the now-defunct Blockbuster video chain. For those who remember, Blockbuster was quintessential of a typical Friday night with family or teenagers looking to rent newly released films on VHS. I myself, remember perusing the aisles lined with VHS cases, admiring the cover art and occasionally seeking out things that I probably shouldn’t see. It was a different time and Korine is the master of channeling kitsch yet relatable pop culture.
For BLOCKBUSTER, Korine made a series of collaged, rectangular works composed of VHS cassettes and covers that have been painted on with oil-based paint marker, house paint, and spray paint. Many titled TBT—the most well-known social media acronym— and dated 2018 were made by Korine in his Nashville studio.
“Over ten years ago I heard about a Blockbuster video store going out of business in Nashville,” the bon vivant told Gagosian. “I bought all the videos in the store from them. I always loved the way VHS covers looked. I loved seeing them in long rows. I began to mark over the covers myself and distort the images.”
The result of his interacting with the VHS covers is both historical and quite specific to a moment of time, yet the end result is also somehow aesthetically naïve. His incessant layering of media over media is both obsessive and charming. Several figures are prominent in most of the works and could be compared to Lego people or the silhouettes of aliens from some undiscovered cave (or aisle) of what Blockbuster once was. He sees these paintings as sequels or a reinvention of narrative, devoid of its original intention. Where so many can now click and watch nearly any feature-length film online, Blockbuster, like much of art viewing, had to be a destination. It was something that one would drive to, pass time in and return to often. As times and technology have changed, the work in Korine’s BLOCKBUSTER, functions as a time portal of its own making, not necessarily reinventing the wheel but assigning new purpose to an outdated form of entertainment.
As Korine told Gagosian, “There is only one Blockbuster left in the world now. The VHS is nearly obsolete, lost in the fog of analog. We are heading into something new now.”
Harmony Korine: BLOCKBUSTER opens September 11 and will remain on view at Gagosian (976 Madison Ave.) until Oct 20, 2018.
Words Katy Diamond Hamer
Photograph courtesy of Gagosian. Harmony Korine’s studio, Nashville, Tennessee (2018) Artwork © Harmony Korine