Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed August 6, 1998
Contact: Linda Mahdesian

Harmonic paintings and porcelains

Bell Gallery to present Korean art from the Won-Kyung Cho Collection

Ninety Korean paintings and porcelains will be on display at the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University from Aug. 29 through Oct. 11, 1998.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University will present Symbolism and Simplicity: Korean Art from the Won-Kyung Cho Collection from Aug. 29 through Oct. 11, 1998. The gallery is located in the List Art Center, 64 College St. The exhibition, which includes 90 Korean paintings and porcelains dating from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, is free and open to the public.

On Sept. 11, Kumja Paik Kim, curator of Korean Art at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, will present a lecture titled "Mountains and Stream: Korean Painting of the 18th and 19th Centuries." The lecture will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the List Art Center Auditorium and will be followed by a reception. The exhibition is accompanied by a hardcover catalogue with an essay written by Ken Vos, curator of the Japanese and Korean Department at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Until recently, Korea's rich artistic history was virtually unknown in the West. Foreign interest in the arts of Korea was fostered primarily through the study of Japanese art and Korea's role in the development of early Japanese Buddhist sculpture and tea ceremony ceramics. The West's first serious interest in the arts of Korea was marked by large international exhibitions organized by Korean government institutions in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Since that time, the knowledge and appreciation of Korean art has grown perceptibly in Korea and abroad, but relatively few Korean works of art have survived the devastation of war, political occupation, and social turmoil of the last century. Symbolism and Simplicity, drawn from the collection of Dr. Won-Kyung Cho of New York, provides a rare opportunity. The paintings and porcelains in the exhibit reflect the dynamics of Korean art and the search for harmony with nature that underlie Korean culture.

Korean art has been categorized into distinct artistic disciplines such as Confucianism, Buddhism, Shamanism and Daoism. It is widely diverse because it uses symbolism both unique to and assimilated from these disciplines. Not only does the reciprocal use of these symbols make the art complex, but the artistic disciplines themselves also have unique and assimilated belief systems. From the Animals of the Zodiac, warding off evil spirits, to the Wild Rose, symbolizing beauty, the reciprocal use of symbols is evidence of how distinct categories frequently overlap.

The production of earthenware on the Korean peninsula can be traced to the Neolithic Age, some 6,000 years ago. The period directly preceding the Three Kingdoms is characterized by the manufacture of mainly reddish-brown or gray bowls and jars. Each of the Kingdoms were known to have their own earthenware style which evolved due to the introduction of the potter's wheel and the closed tunnel kilns which facilitated the production at higher temperatures of earthenware with thin, non-porous walls. A further development took place during the establishment of the Koryo dynasty in the tenth century with the appearance of the climbing tunnel kiln, which allowed for higher, more controlled temperatures. This new technology and use of different metals, resulted in the production of a range of glaze colors including celadons and permitted the firing of both celadons and porcelains.