Korean- American Contemporary art and design
Korean American artists although had begun their careers by using Korean artistic vocabulary, felt that they needed to leave it behind in order to become relevant to global community. After attaining some measure of fame in the international arena in New York, they then felt confident enough to again use some Korea Vocabulary. One example is Jeon Joonho (or Joonho Jeon.). Majority of Korean Artist have realized that they needed to balance their production with their dual citizenship and feel confident enough to use some elements from their Korean background now.
It is no wonder since even in their generation, even younger generation also, in S. Korea they have been educated to be alert on communism and North Korea since they were very young, they were told to re-unite their country, since they are one family with same blood.
Images in his art have been used to produce virtual reality of a US 20th century whose image of a people erasing the windows of the White House. This represents his lamentation toward the hypocritical attitudes of the White House which supposedly stands to defend equality of all men and human rights, all the while advertising itself as open to the public for anyone to enter and look around (Baldin 1995).
In this perspective, erasing the doors and windows of the White House becomes a sarcastic gesture, hopefully showing the truth of the White House as imperial in nature, firmly closed, veiled in its ideals of white supremacy. In the end, this virtual reality will cause spectators to laugh cynically, merely in recognition of its fictitiousness.
In a small sense, we would like to erase our tragic history by USA, in a broad sense. America seemed to be a rescuer to the Korean who was having a hard time under Japanese rule. In S. Korea, the United State of America is called “Mi-Kuk” which has a meaning of beautiful country, though what it did in the Korean Peninsula were not beautiful but abominable. Korean contemporary history indicates that America is also another kind of Axis of Evil which increased the crisis, for instance US soldiers committed numerous cases of murder and rape after the Korean War was finished yet. The artist still laments that they are still in ceasefire (Bramwel 1999).
Most nations have always requisitioned their art works as they utilize it. This process started in the 20th century, when art was widely used for propaganda means and those who produced it were strictly controlled by totalitarian states, for instance the Soviet Union initially kept the tightest control on cultural output and defined the needs of the state.
In many ways, art in North Korea followed on from and emulated that of Stalin’s of Soviet Union and Mao’s China, notably the development of Socialist Realist Art. Most features of the artists and their works of art produced are always similar, and can be seen as average features of art in totalitarian societies.
According to the official account, from the 1960s onwards, Socialist Realist art in North Korea took a new development and was independently guided by the philosophy of Juche. Juche was Kim Il-song’s most important political idea, which he used to promote himself as leader of the North Korean people (Vaughan 2005).
Nowadays the Socialist Realism is called Juche Realism in North Korean. The Juche art theorists in North Korea divide world art history to two groups; namely “peoples’ art”, which reflect the needs of the masses/citizens, and “reactionary art”, which reflected the ideology of the exploiting/political class. The Kim Il-song’s guidelines, which stated “Let’s develop our National form with Socialist content”, hence it provided a guiding force of Juche art.
The “national form” of painting meant the traditional ways of Korean ink painting (Chosonhwa), while on the other hand oil painting which was/has been an imported western technique was encouraged. Large public wall paintings, which were normally expected to be undertaken out in oils, were mostly produced in ink painting, these encouraged ink painters to paint realistically (Vaughan 2005).
Most of the contemporary art has limited its themes as; portraying the general, the relationship of the military and the people, the construction of socialism, cultural beliefs, and the national pride among others.
There is no uncertainty which is expressed in North Koreans contemporary art, no individual hopes that even. To quote from Kim Jong-Il who once said that a picture is supposed to be painted in such a way that the viewer can understand its meaning. In case the people who see a picture cannot grasp its meaning, then no matter what a talented artist may have painted it, they will rarely say is good (Adamson 1999).
The artists who mostly feature in the special exhibition have been carefully chosen to share their unique and unparalleled artistic style, reflecting both their Korean heritage and their modern day American and global lifestyle. While these artists have exhibited their works in hundreds of domestic and international venues, most exhibitions is a representation of the past, present and dreams and hopes for the future. Plans are underway of traveling to various cities in America and Korea to market their art works. It is hoped that this could increase awareness for Korean American artists as well as Korean Americans in general, and help build a sense of unity through the common language of art and culture (Hamilton 2000).
Although Korean painting is not well known in the west, it has held an important place in Korea from a very early date. One of the difficulties in studying Korean art is that conflict which has been so much a feature of life on the Korean peninsula through the ages has destroyed so much of what certainly existed in prior periods. Additionally, invasion and conquest has resulted in much of the best of what remained after battle being removed to other countries where it is more difficult to study and relate it to other Korean developments (Baldin 1995).
Despite these complications in the study of Korean art, Korean art is fascinating because although it has been deeply influenced by Chinese art, the most productive periods in terms of art often do not coincide between the two countries. This can be particularly noted in Koguryo wall paintings, Buddhist paintings of the Koryo period, landscape painting in the first portion of the Choson dynasty and the landscapes painted of Korean scenes in the eighteenth century. Korean painting therefore was influenced by Chinese painting while still pursuing its own path. This resulted in different results and developments than that found on the mainland and give Korean art an interest all its own.
Baldin, B. D, “Contemporary art studies.” New Ed. McGraw-Hill: London, 1995.
Bramwel, P. L., “Korean Cultural studies.” Wiley Publishers: Sydney, 1999.
Davidson, E. J. “Cultural studies in the world.” 2nd Ed. Wiley, Willey publisher: Sydney. 2001.
Hamilton, E. “Art of Painting in Korea.” Cambridge University press: London, 2000.
Adamson, R. “Cultural management in Asian countries:” Four Walls Eight: London, 1999.
Vaughan, E. J. “Essentials of Korean contemporary art studies.” 4th Ed. Wiley Publishers: Sydney, 2005