Manit Sriwanichpoom: Shocking Pink Story

Art Scene

Manit Sriwanichpoom: Shocking Pink Story

The first solo exhibition in the United States featuring the work of artist, Manit Sriwanichpoom, offers a magnetically compelling look into his internationally recognized socio-political oeuvre of conceptual photography. A native of Thailand, where he continues to live and work, Sriwanichpoom first engaged a mix of politics and photography in the early 1980s through work as a social activist and photojournalist. By the mid-1990s, his focus on the interplay of violence and politics in his home country, alongside the development of global consumer culture,  evolved into a powerful art practice that garnered worldwide recognition at the 1998 Bienal Internacional de São Paulo. Five years later, in 2003, he represented Thailand in their first appearance at the Venice Biennale; cementing his position as one of Southeast Asia’s most visible artists.

Manit Sriwanichpoom Pink Story

Installation view of Manit Sriwanichpoom: Shocking Pink Story, courtesy of Tyler Rollins Fine Art.

In the exhibition, Manit Sriwanichpoom: Shocking Pink Story, a 20-year survey of his ongoing Pink Man series is on view. The series started in 1997 with a street-based performance and includes photographs from 2018 shot in New York City. The conceptual photographs utilize a documentary style and feature the Thai poet, Sompong Thawee, as the character, Pink Man, in a variety of scenarios. Pink Man, wears a hot pink suit and pushes a hot pink shopping cart disrupting scenes of contemporary life with his presence; busy urban sidewalks; rural agricultural land; ancient Buddhist monuments that double as tourist attractions; traditional theater group performances; and, at fast food eateries like McDonald’s, to name a few. He also inserts himself digitally into one of the most well known, albeit controversial, black and white photographs from a 1976 massacre of democracy protesters at Thammasat University in Thailand. Known as “the 6th of October event”, this portion of Thai history is not included in school textbooks.

Manit Sriwanichpoom Horror in Pink

Manit Sriwanichpoom, Horror in Pink #2 (6 October 1976 Rightwing Fanatics’ Massacre of Democracy Protesters), 2001. Photograph of the incident by Kraipit Panvuth.

Sriwanichpoom’s use of a shade of pink that is garish, and perhaps vulgar, is an extremely effective tool to convey his critique of consumer culture, nationalism and politics. The loud insertion of the color into orderly contexts, normative ways of being, and assumed refined or sophisticated settings, forces viewers to consider deeper contexts. For example, the commodification of sacred objects – traditionally intended to stimulate contemplation of the human condition, meaning and right conduct – into tourist destinations tied to capitalism and consumerism. The inclusion of the pink shopping cart, adds a direct tie to consumption, offering a clear conceptual clue to viewers.

Manit Sriwanichpoom, Pink Man in Paradise

Manit Sriwanichpoom, Pink Man in Paradise #2, 2003.

In a set of 3 images from the 2009 Pink Man Opera series, Sriwanichpoom worked with a local youth theater group that trains orphans in drama. The work explores western/colonial interference in the autonomous nationhood of countries plagued by the legacy colonialism. Interesting questions emerge around the proliferation of capitalism, traditional thought systems and values, and there ever evolving interplay. In the case of the most recent work, made in New York City, the Pink Man series seems to eerily blend in with a culture that is fully entrenched in consumption.

Manit Sriwanichpoom, Pink Man on European Tour #3

Manit Sriwanichpoom, Pink Man on European Tour #3 (Graz, Austria), 2000.

Original video work from the 1997 street performances, as well as installations and photographs, combine to offer substantial insight into the body of work, while simultaneously allowing viewers to mull over the breadth of the artist’s intention. The exhibition may also stimulate a deeper curiosity in the plethora of art being made on other continents, which has not yet been shown in American venues.

Manit Sriwanichpoom: Shocking Pink Story, his first solo exhibition in the United States, is on view at Tyler Rollins Fine Art from September 13 – October 27, 2018.