The Center for the Art of East Asia organizes an annual symposium to bring together audiencenew scholarship on East Asian art visual culture and to encourages new perspectives and inter-disciplinary communication and collaboration.

WORKSHOP–Impossible Purities: Modern East Asian Art and the Question of Artistic Medium

Saturday, 28 April 2012 (9AM-8PM)
Department of Art History, University of Chicago
Rooms 152 and 157, Cochrane-Woods Art Center, 5540 S Greenwood Ave.

Organized by the Center for the Art of East Asia, Department of Art History, University of Chicago with additional support from the Committee on Japanese Studies, University of Chicago

Conceptions of medium have long shaped the presumptive fields of modern and contemporary art, but particularly with regard to modern and contemporary art in East Asia. In many respects, the very history of this field might be configured in the lines drawn between oil and ink, figuration and abstraction, and “fine” art and craft. Many of these divisions were enacted to work through evolving definitions of culture, nationality, ethnicity, and race throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Particular media were celebrated for their supposed capacity to authentically, or “purely” embody the sensibilities of a particular nation, culture, or race. This was often in direct odds with the artworks themselves, which were the result of sustained negotiations with diverse, and frequently, divergent, ways of thinking about form.

This workshop aims to open up discussion regarding medium in modern and contemporary art in East Asia. Presenters will cover a wide range of case studies, including export painting in 19th century southern China, the mixing of oil and ink painting in Meiji Japan, and the engagement with materiality by ink painters working in postwar Korea.

WORKSHOP–Six Dynasties Material Culture, Arts, Literature, and Ritual

Organized by the Center for the Art of East Asia, Department of Art History, University of Chicago
Location:  The Franke Institute for the Humanities, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago IL 60637
Dates: May 26-27, 2012

The Six Dynasties Period (220-589) witnessed long-standing and widespread political fragmentation. Regimes were mostly short-lived; violence marred public order; many talented literati shunned office. For much of the era, pastoral nomads who had their origins in the northern steppes governed the Yellow River Plain, the cradle of Chinese civilization, while elite Chinese families in unprecedented numbers moved to the malarial south.  There they were met by hostile natives and recent migrant elite Chinese families who did not appreciate being replaced by émigré families. Despite these tumultuous circumstances, the arts flourished as never before: lyric poetry reached new heights, calligraphy became an art form in itself, paintings by individuals known as artists are recorded, and stone statuary became a major art form. At the same time, even though ritual and material life maintained strong continuities with the past, they became enriched and invigorated by the amalgamation of both steppe and Chinese influences.

Nearly thirty years ago, Denis Twitchett attempted to craft a volume of the Cambridge History of China that would cover this seminal period of division between the mighty Han and Tang empires; however, due to the fact that there were not enough specialists in this field, the volume failed to materialize. The art and visual culture of this period was the focus of the three-year “Between the Han and Tang” project organized by Wu Hung and Katherine Tsiang (1999-2001). However, the scholarship on this period as a whole has been fragmented and has not fully recognized its transformative importance for Chinese history. To fill the gap, Albert Dien, Professor Emeritus of Asian Languages at Stanford University and Keith Knapp, Professor and Chair of the History Department at The Citadel, are working together to create the Cambridge History of China: Volume Two, The Six Dynasties.

Recent archeological activity in China and increased scholarship in this period of China is increasing our understanding of this period as a whole. A cluster of related topics from the volume are represented in the planned workshop at the University of Chicago: literature, art, music, popular culture, and Confucian philosophy and its extension into intellectual activity and state ritual. This is the first meeting of authors to share their research and discuss their topics in the context of the larger volume. It also provides a rare opportunity for the academic community in the Chicago area to participate.

Conference Schedule (pdf)

Past conferences

The Screen in East Asia (May 6-8, 2011)

10th-Century China and Beyond: Art and Visual Culture in a Multi-centered Age, Part 2 May 14-15, 2010

10th-Century China and Beyond: Art and Visual Culture in a Multi-centered Age, Part 1
May 29-30, 2009

International Conference on Ancient Tomb Art
Beijing, September 9-11, 2009

Looking at Asian Art: A Symposium in Memory of Prof. Harrie Vanderstappen
April 12-13, 2008

Reinventing the Past: Antiquarianism in East Asian Art and Visual Culture, Part 2
November 3-5, 2006

conference1Reinventing the Past: Antiquarianism in East Asian Art and Visual Culture, Part 1
May, 2006

Rethinking the Field of East Asian Art History
May, 2006

Art and Commerce: Circulating Cultures of East Asia
May, 2005

Looking Modern: East Asian Visual Culture from the Treaty Ports to World War II
April, 2004

From Prints to Photography
May, 2003

Between Han and Tang: Art and Archaeology of a Transformative Period (3rd-6th centuries)
Years: 1999-2001 (a collaborative project involving five academic and research institutions in the U.S. and China that held a series of three conferences and has resulted in the publication of three volumes of research papers)

Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture
April, 1998

Living Icons in Five Traditions: Theories and Practices
January 1998

Ruins in Chinese Visual Culture
May, 1997

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