Joan KeeNov 7, 2014
Contemporary Korean Art
Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method
University of Minnesota Press 2013
Joan Kee's new book is a gorgeous and thoughtful introduction to the history of contemporary art in Korea. Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) traces the creation, promotion, reception, and rhetoric of the work produced by a constellation of artists creating large, mostly abstract paintings in neutral colors from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Kee opens up these works for readers by offering close readings of many important paintings and objects. In doing so, she teaches us how to see these works as methods, showing us how to visualize labor and process in an aesthetic product and pointing out ways that tansaekhwa artists were visualizing conceptions of time, space, materiality, and the agency of the viewer. Contemporary Korean Art also considers tansaekhwa in relation to the global circulation and translation of information about the art world beyond Korea, and explores how the postwar Korean art world dealt with the legacies of empire, nationalism, and colonization. It's a beautiful and fascinating book. You can find a recent exhibition on tansaekhwa here.