DC -- Donald W. Reynolds Center (NPG) -- Exhibit: Portraits of the World: Korea:
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Description of Pictures: Portraits of the World: Korea
December 14, 2018 – November 17, 2019
Pioneering feminist artist Yun Suk Nam (born 1939) uses portraiture to gain insights into the lives of women, past and present. A wood assemblage portrait of her mother is the centerpiece of this exhibition, which includes portraits of American artists, such as Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson, and Marisol. The exhibition highlights shared themes and artistic approaches that have activated women artists from different parts of the globe. Robyn Asleson, associate curator of prints, drawings and media arts, National Portrait Gallery, is curating this installation.
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Specific picture descriptions: Photos above with "i" icons next to the bracketed sequence numbers (e.g. " ") are described as follows:
SIPKOR_181208_10.JPG: Portraits of the World: Korea
Yun Suknam, born 1939
SIPKOR_181224_008.JPG: Mother III
Won Jeung Sook (1915-2010)
by Yun Suknam, 1993 (2018 version)
SIPKOR_181224_014.JPG: Portraits of the World: Korea
Yun Suknam , born 1939
Yun Suknam considers herself an "accidental feminist." She launched her art career in 1979, when feminism was all but unknown in Korea. Through portraiture, she hoped to reclaim a sense of self that she felt her marriage and motherhood had erased. She went on to recover the lives of other "lost" Korean women through portraiture, and today Yun is recognized as a pioneer of Korean feminist art.
Two visits to New York City in the 1980s and 1990s helped shape Yun's work. Inspired by artists like Louise Bourgeois and Marisol, she broke free from the flat surfaces of traditional Korean portraiture and embraced the dramatic possibilities of wood assemblage and installation art. She transformed these Western influences by infusing them with Korean cultural motifs, such as patterns derived from traditional fabrics, which she painted with a freedom that reflects her training in calligraphy. Her sensitive use of the wood's grain reflects the influence of historic Korean sculpture.
By highlighting the strength and resilience of Korean women through the ages, Yun's portraits challenge the Confucian ideal of dutiful female self sacrifice. In her words, women "have had to exist beyond history, floating on the surface of water." Her work unearths them "from the dark grave of history and gives them shape."
SIPKOR_181224_026.JPG: Free Fall
Kiki Smith born 1954
Kiki Smith, a gifted sculptor and printmaker who has long focused on the human form, pictures her own body in Free Fall. Based on a photograph, the image captures the artist's limbs, face, and hair. The textures of these surfaces, enhanced by the use of infrared film, were further accentuated by the artist's use of sandpaper to mark the plate. As curator Wendy Weitman has observed, the movement of the print out of its cardboard enclosure mimics the falling implied by the title. Another metaphor is operative in the form and imagery of this self-portrait: that of birth, the "unfolding" of the creative process.
SIPKOR_181224_031.JPG: Feminism in American Art
SIPKOR_181224_039.JPG: Louise Nevelson, 1899-1988
by Arnold Newman, 1972
SIPKOR_181224_044.JPG: The Gift
Ruth Weisberg born 1942
Ruth Weisberg infuses her paintings and prints with autobiographical references, and women's roles and family relationships are consistent themes. Even in a self-portrait like this one, she functions, as one colleague has noted, "as Everywoman, who plays the role of guide to our memories, dreams, fears and aspirations." Weisberg's lithograph derived from photographs and videos of a 1975 performance piece, also entitled The Gift, in which she danced on stage in front of a video of toddlers-including her own daughter-at a birthday party. The gift of the title is mutual: her gift of life to her child is returned with the many benefits of parenthood. But as she reaches out to the children, one senses the bittersweet implication that her attempt at generational connection is futile. The mother will never touch the child of the film who frolics behind her in such proximity.
SIPKOR_181224_054.JPG: Self-Portrait (On Being Female)
Pele de Lappe 1916-2007
On Being Female, Pele de Lappe's 1991 lithographic self-portrait, addresses the complexities of being a woman. Marriage, parenthood, relocations, and two divorces had all interfered with de Lappe's career in art. For many years, she was a cartoonist and a newspaper editor. To support her family, she also worked as a layout designer for a business form company, only returning finally to her art in the 1980s. In this print, the white-haired de Lappe, who had had many lovers and admirers, references through the nude in the background the voluptuous beauty she once was. By turning away the face in one portrayal and holding a mask in the other, she implies that the female must hide her true self in order to play expected roles. Both the nudity of the young woman and the jewelry of the older one could be choices designed to appeal, implying sexual availability or simply femininity.
SIPKOR_181224_064.JPG: Nancy Spero, 1926-2009
by Abe Frajndlich, 1987
SIPKOR_181224_073.JPG: Marisol Escobar, 1930-2016
by Hans Namuth, 1964
SIPKOR_181224_082.JPG: Marisol Escobar, 1930-2016
by Judith Shea, 2013
Louise Bourgeois, 1911-2010
Louise Bourgeois's etched self-portrait expresses personal identity in terms that transcend the self. Basing her composition on a 1940 drawing, Bourgeois explains: "The strong figure on the right is the father, and the softer figure on the left is the mother. And there, in between, this creature appears. It is simply a self-portrait." Although Bourgeois's work often reflects the emotional toll of her childhood-which was characterized by extreme tension between her parents-this familial group generates a sense of well-being: "[My parents] seem to endorse me, for better or for worse." While acknowledging the work's autobiographical roots, Bourgeois enhanced its symbolic associations in transforming it into a print, observing: "You don't know if the little figure is a boy or a girl, but it is a little god, regardless." Signifying the power of love and acceptance to channel force productively, Bourgeois's self-portrait functions as a metaphor for creation itself.
SIPKOR_181224_108.JPG: Cosmogony of Desire
Diane Von Fürstenberg, born 1946
Born Brussels, Belgium
Forty years ago, Diane Von Fürstenberg designed the iconic wrap dress that continues to captivate women from Madonna to Michelle Obama, Beyoncé to Kate Middleton. With its zipperless, buttonless construction, the dress allows its liberated wearer to move comfortably from home to the workplace to the evening and still look powerful, polished, and feminine. Von Fürstenberg says, "It's the dress that . . . paid my bills, gave me my fame, and allowed me to be free." Born in Belgium to Jewish parents, Von Fürstenberg credits her mother, a former prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp, for teaching her that "fear is not an option."
Von Fürstenberg and artist Anh Duong share a bond as feminists. Duong began the portrait by painting one eye on the canvas and then worked the rest of the body around it. Von Fürstenberg noticed that in that one eye, "she completely and totally captured me."
by Anh Dyong, 2001
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