Impossible Purities: Modern East Asian Art and the Question of Artistic Medium
Workshop at the University of Chicago, Saturday, April 28, 2012
Room 157, Department of Art History, 5540 S. Greenwood Ave.
9:00 AM-12:30 PM; 5:00 PM-8:00 PM
Conceptions of medium have long shaped the presumptive fields of modern and
contemporary art, but particularly with regard to modern and contemporary
art in East Asia. In many respects, the very history of this field might
be configured the lines drawn between oil from ink, figuration and
abstraction, and "fine" art from craft. Many of these divisions enacted as
a means to work through evolving definitions of culture, nationality,
ethnicity, and race throughout the 19th and 20th centuries; illustrations
in point include the rise of nihonga in Meiji Japan or the use of woodblock
prints in Republican China. In many instances, particular media were
celebrated on the basis of their supposed capacity to authentically, or
"purely" embody the sensibilities of a particular nation,
culture, or race. This was in direct odds with the artworks themselves,
all of which were the result of sustained negotiations with diverse, and
frequently, divergent, ways of thinking about form. Operative in these
works is a palpable indeterminacy and in-betweenness that fatally
undermines the notion of a "pure" medium. Contrary to certain
Anglo-American discourses of modernity which privilege the issue of medium
specificity, the core questions of modern art in East Asia turn on the
implications of medium as a fundamentally compromised notion. In recent
decades, the question of medium has been further complicated by presumed
divisions between materials, that is, between artists working with
materials associated with modern and contemporary art as defined by
consensus opinion rooted in artistic circles based in Europe and the U.S.
versus those who work with materials designated as “indigenous” or
“traditional.” This workshop aims to open up discussion regarding the
position and impact of medium in modern and contemporary art in East Asia.
Presenters will cover a wide range of case studies, including export
painting in 19th century southern China, the mixing, or "miscegenation"
that arises vis-a-vis the commingling of oil and ink painting in Meiji
Japan, and the engagement with materiality by ink painters working in
Jerome Silbergeld (Princeton University), ""Is a White Horse a Horse? Is A
Painted Pot a Pot or a Painting? The Long History of Mixed-Media,
Mixed-Genre Arts in China"
Winnie Wong (Harvard University), "Lam Qua's Ingres's :
Non-Authorship and Pure Modes of Copying"
John Szostak (University of Hawaii), "Nihonga and the "Pigment Problem":
Evolving Notions of Mineral Pigments in Modern Japanese Painting"
Bert Winther-Tamaki (University of California at Irvine), "Fluxed by Other
Media: The Modern Flow of Asian Ink"
Joan Kee (University of Michigan), "Kwon Young-woo Stands His Ground:
Abstract Ink Painting"
Workshop Discussant: Wu Hung (University of Chicago)
Asst. Professor, Dept of Art History
University of Chicago
5540 S Greenwood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
University of Michigan
Department of the History of Art
110 Tappan Hall
855 S. University Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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