Landscape, Mindscape: Portrayals of Nature and the World from Korea and Beyond, 1700-2020

Lee Lee-Nam 
Korean, 2009
New Geumgangjeondo (New Complete View of Mount Geumgang)
7 minute, 10 second single channel video 
installation on 65 inch LED TV, edition 1/6
H. 59 3/8 x W. 34 ½ x D. 5 1/8 inches 
Museum purchase with funds from the Farwest Steel
Korean Art Endowment and Ballinger Funds in honor of Jill Hartz 

Landscape, Mindscape: Portrayals of Nature and the World from Korea and Beyond, 1700-2020

June 08, 2024 to March 30, 2025


This exhibition features a broad scope of artworks that visually and conceptually depict nature and the world incorporating methods, aesthetics, and ideas derived from Korea and other cultures from the eighteenth century through the present. It sheds light on traditional works such as Joseon-dynasty (1392-1910) Korean folding screens, hanging scrolls, and framed paintings, as well as on contemporary paintings, calligraphy, photographs, time-based art, and ceramics that represent nature informed by both indigenous and multicultural influences.

The traditional works on view in Landscape, Mindscape highlight a deep connection between Korean perspectives on nature and art. Nature has always been accorded profound significance in Korea and feelings about it were deeply intertwined with religious and cultural beliefs, philosophy, and politics. Such interconnections led Koreans to view nature as being inseparable from humanity and contributed to it becoming a central artistic and literary theme. In this regard, the exhibition showcases traditional Korean landscape paintings (sansuhwa) by Ahn Joong-sik, Shin Hak-gwon, and Ko Hui-dong. It also features compositions on the theme of the “Four Gentlemen”—the grouping of bamboo, plum blossoms, orchids, and chrysanthemums, four plants believed to represent qualities of purity and rectitude—which embody the long-standing harmony between humans and the natural world.

Examples of contemporary art on display present critical and creative portrayals of nature and the world that interrogate artists’ personal, social, and cultural reflections and connections, visualized through interdisciplinary and transcultural practices. Artists build on their own artistic languages, integrating selected motifs, methods, and philosophies from traditional Korea as well as the modern/contemporary globe. Seongmin Ahn combines a surrealistic landscape and a still-life of scholar’s accouterments (chaekgeori) into a single painting featuring divergent vanishing points—one European and linear and the other based on traditional Korean perspective; a video by Lee Lee-Nam uses four seasonal views and contemporary urban-scapes to suggest questions about the socio-political perception of Mountain Geumgang in North Korea; and Sangyon Joo explores her own spiritual, emotional, and cultural journey by creating an abstract image of frost that reflects her travel to Europe from Korea.

Landscape, Mindscape was co-curated by Soojin Jeong, Post-Graduate Curatorial Fellow in East Asian Art and Gayun Lee, 2023-2024 JSMA/Korea Foundation Global Challengers Intern