Published: August 12, 2003
The first American museum exhibition dedicated to the innovative work of Korean contemporary ceramic artist Yoon Kwang-cho (born 1946) will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, September 2-December 31.
“Mountain Dreams: Contemporary Ceramics by Yoon Kwang-cho” will include some 30 objects drawn from various museums and private collections around the world. The exhibition will coincide with the 27th Annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show and the 50th symposium of the American Ceramics Circle. The artist himself will be in Philadelphia in early October to give demonstrations and lectures as part of the museum’s annual Korean Heritage Weekend (October 3-5).
Acknowledged as one of the master potters of his generation in his native Korea, Yoon bases his work on the traditional Korean pottery known as punch ‘ong (or buncheong), which is characterized by its freedom of design, unusual shapes and coarse potting. Yoon has adapted this traditional form to create his own distinctive wares of triangular and rectangular shapes, with bold swathes of white brushwork or characters incised on their surfaces.
This is the first American museum exhibition devoted to Kwang-cho. Felice Fischer, the Luther W. Brady curator of Japanese Art and curator of East Asian Art said, “Yoon has taken the best features of Korean traditional arts and made them his own.”
There will be a representative selection of Kwang-cho’s ceramic creations, from his first experiment with punch ‘ong in 1975 – still very much in the traditional vein – to his abstract, painterly pieces of the 1980s and large-scale vessels of recent years. His work will be installed in the North Auditorium Gallery together with a number of examples of Korean furniture from the museum’s permanent collection.
In his contemporary translations of punch ‘ong wares Kwang-cho uses triangular and irregular rectangular shapes, with bold swathes of white slip brushed over reddish clay. The surfaces are given texture by gouges with a knife or nails, or irregular paddling with a wooden paddle or his hands while the clay is still wet.
Some of Kwang-cho’s large-scale pieces are over two feet high, with Buddhist texts from the “Heart Sutra” incised over the whole surface. The act of copying a sacred text onto a ceramic vessel is a spiritual event for the artist, who practices meditation as part of his discipline in creating his ceramics.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art is on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For information, 215-763-8100 or visit philamuseum.org.
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