Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A.I.C. : Lee Mikyung

Once every year, I send a memorial to the emperor (i.e. the new director of the Art Institute) -- giving him valuable advice concerning the administration of his empire.

I realize that -- given my bad attitude -- were this a real emperor/empire -- I would have been beheaded several years ago -- but Mr. Cuno tolerates my opinions -- and is actually kind enough to write me in reply.

The problem is --- whatever I raise an issue -- he addresses it -- but not as I would have wished.

For example -- on one of my walks through the galleries, I discovered the following piece:

Ode to Balsam Flowers (detail)

The above is a small section of a 4-screen , 6-foot high, display of calligrapy --
by the Korean artist Lee Mikyung. According to the label, the script is an anachronistic, Korean style preserved by aristocratic women ( while their husbands preferred to write in Chinese characters).

Lee Mikyung was born 1918 -- and this piece was done in 1991 -- so chronologically, she would be considered a contemporary artist. (everything done after 1950 is now considered "contemporary")

I'm glad the piece is being shown --- it's a bit regimented/formal -- i.e. the characters don't seem to play with each other very much --- but each one is wonderful to study -- and god knows there are enough of them.

When I wrote to Mr. Cuno, I asked why this traditional Korean contemporary calligraher was on display --- but not-one-single traditional Euro-American -style painter was on the walls. (and god knows there are enough of those -- painters of portraits/landscape/still-life etc) Why should traditional Korean culture be honored -- but not our own ?

Last week I discovered that this problem had been solved: the Lee Mikyung had been sent to the basement -- and a different ( and much older ) Korean painting was now on display.

I suppose this is just a coincidence --- but in the same memorial, I asked why members should wish to renew their membership to the museum -- since the admitance fee is "pay what you wish" -- and the only real benefit was free admission to the high-priced special exhibits (which new museum policy has discontinued)

And now -- I have just learned that "pay what you wish" will soon be replaced by "pay $12" (or some such amount)

So once again -- my concerns were addressed -- but not in the way I would have wished !


Anonymous Kat said...

So you're the one responsible for making paid admission mandatory? It's a good thing I have my handy model badge or you'd be in big trouble.

May 25, 2006  
Blogger Gawain said...

hello Chris

I dont think you read this calligraphy correctly. It isnt formal or stiff or regimented at all. Actually, it is quite playful. I think one gains a perception for this by handling an ink brush to write with. I recommend the excercise.

The reason why we respect traditional Korean (and Chinese and Japanese) art is because they (Koreans, Chinese, Japanese) do. We don't respect our traditional art. Its all about challenging establihed conventions, haven't you heard?

I had a tiff with Saul about it on the list: there is this official party line -- you MUST love Picasso today (and Goya), God forbid you could even SAY otherwise. -- and this party line reflects past, long since settled battles between economic cliques. the (impressionst) refusniks displaced the academy as the dominant trend (for a time anyway, for then they themselves got displaced (suits them right for introducing a system which allows revolutions: revolutions eat their children, dont they). but while impressionists were lated eliminated by others, academicians remain stone dead as a result of their run in with the impressionists.

i saw a show of academic paintings recently and they were actually quite decent (even if the subject matter was tiresome).



May 26, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

Since you've wielded a brush, Gawain, I'll have to keep your opinion in mind.

But I was looking at a shoot springing up from the trunk of my apple tree this morning, and it gave me an idea for comparison.

The above branch was arrow straight -- but I never felt that it was constrained to be so -- that's just the way it grew.

With Lee's characters, I feel the lines that contrict them into regularity -- which I take to be a bad sign -- like feeling your chair in an auditorium.

May 26, 2006  
Blogger Gawain said...

i have been told i have a pretty good hand... :)

perhaps it is a personal matter -- i dont see the constriction here; or perhaps it is something else -- perhaps Asians -- perhaps all old worlders -- have a different relationship to constraint. in some ways its like manners: once you have internalized them, they become a part of you and no longer feel as external rules. one can happoily choose to remain within the guidelines of the style -- and it doesn't feel like a submission.

of course, his is Korean writing and I know very little about that.

you have an apple tree -- how wonderful - in the windy city. is it blooming yet? why not post a photo if it when it does?

my batik post was in direct immitation of your appreciation posts. i really enjoy myself here. does it show?

May 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee Mikyung is a woman, and apparently Korea's foremost living calligrapher. I'm sad to read that her calligraphy has gone to the basement, even if another Korean painting has replaced it. Why not hang both?

Examples of traditional Euro-American-style painting abound in American museums, libraries, books, films, dorm room walls, and diary covers. But traditional Asian arts, with the exposure they provide to us to a contrasting aesthetic and philosophy, are rare on this continent.

July 20, 2006  
Blogger chris miller said...

Thankyou, anonymous person, for your comment. The Korean room is a very small one at the A.I.C. --- maybe a fifth the size given to Japanese arts --- but then there's no room at all for many other Asian countries like Thailand or Persia -- and despite the upcoming 30% increase in museum floor space, it's not a situation that is likely to improve for many years to come.

July 21, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home