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Contemporary East Asian art curators to meet, discuss their discipline

Lianne Zhang, News Bureau

Melissa Mitchell, News Editor


Square Word Calligraphy
Click photo to enlarge
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
   Xu Bing, Square Word Calligraphy Classroom, 1994-96, mixed media interactive installation: 12 desk/chair/bookrest sets, blackboard, brushes, ink, and ink stones; copy books, tracing books, and video; detail of working from the copy book (reproduced by permission of the artist

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Art historians and curators from across the nation will gather at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Feb. 17-18 for "Making a Scene: Curating Contemporary East Asian Art in the U.S."

The free, public event is sponsored by the university’s Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies, Krannert Art Museum, and Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. It includes a panel discussion, performance, workshop and art exhibition.

Most events take place at the museum, 500 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign. A complete list of activities, including locations and times, is available on the Web.

"This is an important meeting of curators who are looking into contemporary Japanese, Chinese and Korean art," said event co-organizer Anne Burkus-Chasson, a U. of I. professor of art history and of East Asian languages and cultures. "Curators have the power to define and to frame what is contemporary East Asian art for their audience in the U.S. We have asked the curators to reflect on what they have chosen to exhibit and what they have chosen not to exhibit."

mountains, trees, and clouds drawn in black ink on a hanging scroll
Click photo to enlarge
  Arnold Chang (Zhang Hong)
"Landscape With Pines" 2005
hanging scroll, ink on paper
52 3/4 x 29 1/4 in.

What the curators have to show and tell should appeal to at least two primary audiences: "people who take an interest in art, generally, and people interested in Asia, but not necessarily art," said the event’s other co-organizer, U. of I. anthropology professor and EAPS director Nancy Abelmann said.

"The number one question that will be looked at," she said, "is, ‘What is contemporary Asian art?’ "

"We are also interested in defining the difference – if any – between the reception of Chinese, Japanese and Korean art in the U.S.," Burkus-Chasson said.

Attention to contemporary Asian art began in the United States in the 1990s, Abelmann said. To date, much of that attention has been focused on the work of Chinese and Japanese artists. Among the highlights of the U. of I. program will be an expansion of that focus – "to pause and reflect" on the contributions of emerging Korean artists as well.

"In terms of cultural history, contemporary Korean art has not held that same attention (as work by Japanese and Chinese artists)," despite the fact that "there is a very healthy, Korean diasporic community in the U.S.," Abelmann said.

composition of various internal computer parts
Click photo to enlarge
  Xing Danwen, DisCONNEXION series: b2, 2002-2003, photograph, 148 x 120 cm (reproduced by permission of the artist)

According to Burkus-Chasson, visiting curators planning to participate in panel discussions at the U. of I. are among the most active and influential people in their field.

"It’s very remarkable to have these people in a room together – it probably won’t happen again," Abelmann said.

On the program:

Arnold Chang (Zhang Hong), an artist, art historian, teacher, critic, appraiser and dealer whose own work is based on classical paintings dating to the 14th century. Chang will demonstrate his painting style and technique from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the museum. His paintings also are on view there through Feb. 18 in an exhibition that includes selections from the Krannert’s own collection of modern Chinese art.

Britta Erickson, an independent scholar and curator whose work focuses on contemporary Chinese art. Erickson has curated a number of shows in the U.S., most recently, "On the Edge: Contemporary Chinese Artists Encounter the West."

The exhibition will travel to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in July.

Yu Yeon Kim, an independent curator who has been a commissioner and a curator of various biennales, including the Kwangju Biennale in 2000. She recently curated the show "DMZ_2005: Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea," which brought together a group of international artists in Paju, South Korea.

Alexandra Monroe, former director of the Japan Society Gallery, New York City, and the newly appointed – and first – senior curator of Asian art at New York’s Guggenheim Museum. Monroe is planning an exhibition there titled "Contemplating the East: Asian Ideas and Modern American Art."

Julia F. Andrews, professor of Chinese art history at Ohio State University. Andrews was co-curator of the modern section of the Guggenheim’s 1998 exhibition "China: 5,000 Years," the first comprehensive exhibition of modern Chinese art in this country. She also co-wrote the exhibition catalog, "A Century in Crisis: Modernity and Tradition in the Art of Twentieth-Century China."

Catalogs from shows curated by visiting panelists will be on reserve prior to and during the event at the Ricker Library in the Architecture Building, 608 E. Lorado Taft Drive, Champaign.