The Influence of Korean Art, Ideas and Aesthetics on Abstract Expressionism
AbstractI explored how Jackson Pollock approached Asian arts through his own practice and argued what are specifically Korean elements in his work, in order to excavate the relationship between Korean aesthetics and American painting in the middle of the twentieth century. When examining his paintings, I found the Korean features in his paintings, Red Painting series, exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum, 2009 and had been visible in his drawings in the 1940s. The route of Korean art work to America between the late 19th and the early 20th centuries will be examined first. How Americans reacted to Korean art discussed by reviewing the publication of Korean art in major museums, which led to the public collecting of Eastern pieces of art. What is Korean aesthetic and how it is different form Chinese and Japanese aesthetics is a crucial point in order to identify Korean characteristic in Pollock’s work. Through more realistic approaches, the study of the literatures, magazines, letters and Iconographic analysis, I would like to rediscover the fresh Asian characteristic and restore Korean identity to Abstract Expressionism in the historical and ethnological context. Pollock’s library catalogue suggests that his interest in Asian culture continued until the 1950s. Iconographic analysis will compare Pollock’s work to illustrations with the text in Culin’s study, Korean Games and the American Indian Games. Culin was a representative Indian ethnologist who was deeply interested in Taegeuk ideas in America at that time. He tried to find the link between American Indian and Korean cultures and considered Korean artifacts ethnologically important. Examination of the ethnological studies between America and East Asia will suggest why Pollock was affected by Korean folk art and Buddhist art. Pollock knew how Surrealists and Jungian therapists worked with psychic automatism but a painting of Jung’s patient displayed her literary experience as Jung observed that she read Legge’s translation in the Sacred Books of the East series and put the I Ching hexagrams from the content into the panting. Therefore, Pollock’s Taegeuk drawing, I Ching hexagrams and his unconscious could be explored by Culin’s ethnological theory with relevant North East Asian ideas. His work displayed that he might have turned his eyes from Western ideas and arts to Asian ideas and arts. John Graham, a very significant critic in Abstract Expressionism, also denoted Korean art in his book, System and Dialectics of Art (1937). It would be possible that John Graham introduced Picasso’s primitive art element to Jackson Pollock and all of them were interested in Asian ideas and arts. Secret Images: Picasso and the Japanese Erotic Print, published in 2010, shows his interest in Asian characteristics. The writer found while researching Greenberg’s limitations that his idea was unconcerned about Asian art and idea, and lacked an understanding of them. After the Cold War, in contradiction of his claims, Asian Influence is accepted on American Art and European avant-garde. Those things as multi-viewpoints, shapes of cube, colors, and arrangement of the state of weightlessness seen in Picaso's works are very similar to the characteristics of Korean traditional folk paintings. It is known that Pollock had derived many influences from Picaso's works. This thesis means to suggest that the Asian characteristics seen in Piccaso's works had come to Pollock. It could be said that there should be more researches on the Asian characteristics seen in Picaso’s works to understand Pollock's works better. During the Cold War, the strong political interference produced distortion and deception in art. The classical example of this practice was the active involvement of the CIA in promoting “the American way” in order to counter the menace and spread of Marxism in Far East Asia. CIA used Abstract Expressionism in order to advance so-called American style capitalism. This is the reason why the role of Asian idea and art was not fully discussed in this area. Therefore, it can be said that Korean art and idea was also disregarded by international relationship during Cold War.
Chae, Jung Gyun (2013) The Influence of Korean Art, Ideas and Aesthetics on Abstract Expressionism. MPhil thesis, University of York.