Clay, wood, and paper are essential materials employed for Korean art and craft. They are extremely versatile, allowing for the creation of a wide range of works of art, including paintings, sculpture, crafts, and wares for everyday use. This exhibition from the Museum's Korean art collection, which spans over 1,500 years, explores the diverse applications of these materials in both traditional and contemporary art. The abundance of high-quality clays found in the mountains of Korea, together with advanced techniques invented by Korean artists, has made the ceramic tradition a strong one throughout the country's history. The clay section of this exhibition features early stoneware vessels and clay roof tiles from the seventh century. Korea's mountainous environment also provided excellent lumber; thus wood became another popular material used in daily life. In art, wood was frequently the choice of sculptors, as can be seen in the eighteenth-century figure of a boy attendant shown at left. Papermaking techniques traveled from China to Korea during the second and third centuries CE, and by the seventh century the country had become famous as an exporter of high-quality paper. An installation of five different colored scrolls—symbolizing the elements water (black), fire (red), earth (yellow), wood (blue), and metal (white)—is included in this exhibition. Containing late nineteenth-century wood block printed text mounted on Korean handmade paper and woven with ramie, the set of scrolls exemplifies the Museum's holdings of contemporary Korean works on paper. Due to their fragility, the works on paper will be rotated periodically.
Hyunsoo Woo • Associate Curator of Korean Art
Gallery 238, second floor