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Tied White Porcelain

Lee Seung-taek Korean

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 233

Lee Seung-taek invokes earlier art traditions, like his teacher Kim Whanki, whose work is on view nearby, but Lee aims to challenge “stereotypical notions of materials” and to “transform the present into the past and the past into the present.” Adding a ceramic “rope” to a white jar transforms it from familiar to mysterious, enticing viewers to look inside for the source. By the twentieth century, porcelain jars were revered as elegant art objects embodying Confucian austerity. The rope confounds this reading, prioritizing the nonsensical over the elegant. In their postwar drive for reconstruction, the authoritarian Korean governments of the 1960s and 1970s placed a premium on value, whether functional or symbolic, and alignment with nationalist agendas. Through nonsense, Lee subverts these criteria. His work simultaneously revives traditional objects devalued in an industrialized society and challenges efforts to use those objects to craft essentializing nationalist narratives.

Tied White Porcelain, Lee Seung-taek  , Korean, born 1932, Porcelain, Korea

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