A form emerges, flat mountain atop a chest, I see forever

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My favorite moments at the Philadelphia Art Museum are the suprises, the happening upon work I wasn’t seeking. So it was Thursday, when, in looking for the faceless photographs show, I happened upon Yoon Kwang-Cho’s pottery.

I had read that this work was wonderful, but the pictures, just like the one here, seemed so flat and uninteresting. Which brings up once again the failure of photos, the failure of web images.

The work by Yoon, a contemporary Korean potter whose work harks back to his country’s traditional buncheong pottery, is so tactile, the clay remains a hand-impressed presence under the slips and glazes. The scale of these pieces, vis a vis normal-sized vessels, is monumental. “Message” (shown) is 33 1/2 inches high!

And the hand-built pieces are meditative at the same time that they retain a roughness and primitive quality. The miracle of these pieces was that for all their real world and earthly qualities, they were spiritual–vessels of thoughts and prayers and souls.

Yoon’s approach to the clay was filled with experiment, and I was taken with how Yoon rubbed off the finish on raised areas of clay to reveal what’s underneath–plain clay–to such different effect from Ken Price using a similar technique (shown, Price’s “Inca Message,” see Oct. 10, 2003 post). The Price work, which I had admired very much, looks like a bauble symbolizing Western decadence next to Yoon’s forthright. plain pieces.

Either way, Yoon was worth the look and then some, and called for the kinds of hands-on viewing the museum cannot tolerate.

In contrast, “The Faceless Figure: Photographs from the Collection” hung limp on the wall, even though many of the images were wonderful and unfamiliar to me.

It was a high concept show, in which the concept didn’t enliven the images nor the images the concept.

Too bad, although I still enjoyed having a look (shown, Burk Uzzle’s “Industrial Accident Victim, Daytona Beach, Florida,” not my personal fave, but what the museum chose to promote the show).

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