The Cleveland Museum of Art Announces New Acquisitions
Cleveland (July 25, 2023)—Recent acquisitions by the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) include Écriture No. 22-77 by Park Seo Bo (박서보), a pioneer in Korean postwar abstraction; a clay sculpture by Rose B. Simpson, a contemporary Native American artist; drawings by Dutch artist Jacob de Wit and British artist Richard Cosway; and five Nabeshima porcelain dishes from the province of Hizen in Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost island.
Écriture No. 22-77, Park Seo Bo (박서보)
Major Work of Korean Postwar Abstraction
Écriture No. 22-77, 1977. Park Seo Bo 박서보 (Korean, b. 1931). Pencil and oil on hemp cloth;
130.2 x 195.3 cm (51 1/4 x 76 7/8 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund, 2023.48
Écriture No. 22-77 by Park Seo-Bo (Korean, b. 1931) is a masterpiece of Dansaekhwa, one of the most important movements in postwar Korean art. Park is widely regarded as the father of Dansaekhwa, due in a large part to his development in the 1960s and 70s of the Écritures series to which this painting belongs. Created in 1977 during this initial period of invention, Écriture No. 22-77 is a quintessential representative of Park’s focus on restrained monochromatic abstraction.
Born in 1931, Park Seo Bo grew up under Japanese colonial rule. After serving in the Korean War in the early 1950s, he graduated from Hongkik University’s prestigious painting department. He began his career making works of Korean Informel Art, considered the first radical artistic experiment in postwar Korea, not only because it abandoned representational art in favor of complete abstraction, but also because it initiated a collective rebellion against the government-sponsored National Art Exhibition. In these works, which Park recalls his experiences of war, he built up dense, impastoed surfaces through aggressive gestures and forceful swaths of color.
It was, however, through a radically different paradigm, manifested in the Écritures, that Park came into his own. According to the artist, this shift was catalysed in 1967 by a revelation he had while watching his three-year-old attempt to write a word inside a grid. Growing frustrated by his failure to fit within the lines, his son abandoned his initial pursuit, instead creating his own form of writing, a kind of repetitive scribbling.
Adapting this example of inventing a personal language, Park left behind image and color, and replaced the unique expressive gesture with a recurring predetermined mark. He also gave primacy to the pencil over the paintbrush, which he began using to make straight angled incisions in multiple wet coats of off-white, gray, and pale-yellow oil paint. As Park added pencil marks, paint was removed. The artist considers his technique to be one of partial erasure. As demonstrated in Écriture No. 22-77, the result of this process is a dynamic, textured surface that seems to vibrate when viewed up close. This major acquisition for both the museum’s contemporary and Korean art collections, will make its public debut in the Korea Foundation Gallery (October 2023–January 2024).
Heights III, Rose B. Simpson
Hand-molded sculpture emphasizes importance of passing Indigenous traditions to future generations
Heights III, 2022. Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo, b. 1983). Clay, steel, twine, grout, and beads from bone, wood, lava, trade glass, pyrite, and stone; 160 x 44.5 x 43.2 cm (63 x 17 1/2 x 17 in.). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Severance and Greta Millikin Trust, 2023.49
Rose B. Simpson’s sculpture, Heights III, is the first contemporary Native American sculpture to be acquired by the museum. Simpson belongs to a long lineage of women from Santa Clara Pueblo (Khaʼpʼoe Ówîngeh), famous for producing blackware and redware pottery that dates back hundreds of years. By creating ceramic figures––as opposed to the traditional clay vessels marketed to tourists and ousiders, for which ceramic artists in the region are best known––her work represents a bold intervention in colonial legacies of dependency, erasure, and assimilation. She does so via a medium––clay––that has deeply rooted ancestral foundations.
This acquisition is a self-portrait of the artist holding her daughter. The bridge-like forms linking their heads recall the artist’s concern with passing along foundational Indigenous traditions to her child as she grows up. The mother-and-child subject is one of Simpson’s most iconic sculptural motifs, but she rarely creates them on this scale. The black clay she uses here recalls traditional Pueblo black pottery. As is typical of the artist’s works, this work is exquisitely sculpted, showing traces of hand-molding throughout the surface. The arms of the figures are missing, replaced instead with handles, symbolizing their likeness to double-handled, ceramic vessels.
Jupiter (in the guise of Diana) and Callisto, Jacob de Wit
Work on paper displays draftsmanship of respected painter