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Wallach Art Gallery to Exhibit Rare Korean Paintings

"The Fragrance of Ink: Korean Literati Paintings of the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910) from the Korea University Museum"

August 14 - September 21, 1996. Tues.-Sat. 1 to 5 P.M. Free admission. (Closed Saturday, August 31)

Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Schermerhorn Hall, Columbia University, Broadway and 116th Street. Information: (212) 854-7288.

Columbia University will be the first stop for a traveling exhibition of rare Korean paintings from Korea University in Seoul that is making its premiere showing in the United States this year and next.

Titled The Fragrance of Ink: Korean Literati Paintings of the Choson Dynasty (1392-1910), the exhibition of 62 works - hanging scrolls, album leaves, fans and screens - will be on view in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery on Columbia's Morningside Heights campus from August 14 to September 21. It is the first American presentation of works from a major museum in South Korea to be devoted exclusively to the traditional scholar painting of Korea's last royal dynasty.

Organized jointly by the Korean Studies Institute and the Korea University Museum of Korea University, the exhibition is circulated in the United States by the Smart Museum of Art of the University of Chicago, where it will be shown October 10-December 8. It will travel in 1997 to the University of Oregon Museum of Art (January 5-March 9), the Fowler Museum of Cultural History of the University of California, Los Angeles (April 6-June 8) and the University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley (July 23-September 23).

The Fragrance of Ink includes works by some of the most significant painters who defined the resurgence of brush-and-ink painting within the general cultural flowering of the period, such as Yi Kyong-yun, Chong Son, Kang Se-hwang and Kim Hong-do. The term "literati painting" originally was limited to works painted at leisure by the scholar-officials who formed an elite in Korean - and Chinese - society. Korean literati painting includes works by such scholars as well as by court painters and professional artists.

The trajectory of the history of Choson painting is complex, and the exhibition charts some of its most prominent stylistic developments. Notable among them is the reception and creative adaptation by Korean artists of painting traditions from China: both the professional tradition of the Ming dynasty known as the Zhe School and the amateur tradition represented by the scholar/painters of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Also documented is the rise during the 17th century of a national painting style in in the form of "true view" landscapes featuring actual scenes of Korea - the fabled Diamond Mountain (Mt. Kumgang) was a favorite subject - rather than the idealized mountains and valleys of Chinese painting.

As in China and Japan, Korean literati painting is closely aligned with the arts of writing and literature, both in materials used and in choice of subject. Like the calligrapher, the artist used brush and ink, paper and silk, with the addition of pale color washes or, occasionally, rich opaque colors. Often a poem or descriptive text, which makes reference to classical Chinese texts, appears on a painting. Landscapes and the genre known as the "Four Gentlemen" - bamboo, orchid, plum and chrysanthemum - are favored subjects, rich in associations in China and Korea as symbols of scholarly character and aspiration.

The exhibition is supported by a grant from Hyundai Group. The presentation at Columbia is made possible, in part, by the University's East Asian Institute and by the Korea Foundation.