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Umber Blue

Yun Hyong-keun Korean

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 233

While engaging with the techniques of calligraphy and ink painting, Yun Hyong-keun created works in oil that look as if one has zoomed in to see the interactions between paint and surface. He deliberately avoided black, a signifier of ink; instead, as his titles reveal, he layered brown umber and ultramarine blue to create degrees of darkness. Using different mixtures of paint and turpentine that would spread and soak at varying speeds, Yun made art that visualizes time and embraces chance. Absorption and application play equal roles, challenging the supremacy of mark making linked to ink painting and calligraphy. While the unpainted surface is centered, ideas about emptiness or the void—concepts that often conjure “Asian” spirituality or philosophy for non-Asian audiences—are countered by thin painted strips at top and bottom that give it a discrete shape.

Umber Blue, Yun Hyong-keun (Korean, 1928–2007), Oil on linen, Korea

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