From March 12 to April 18, 2015, MIYAKO YOSHINAGA is pleased to present Joo Myung Duck: Motherland, the celebrated Korean photographer’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Motherland features thirty gelatin-silver prints produced and hand-printed by Joo between 1965 and 2010. The exhibition examines his remarkable journey from photorealism to abstract photography. An opening reception will be held Thursday, March 12, 6-8pm.
Joo Myung Duck (b. 1940) is one of the most important photographers working today in South Korea. Joo’s early documentary style work observes the everyday struggles in post-Korean War society. Whether his subjects are orphans, villagers, or families, Joo focuses on their dignity within harsh realities and unsettled circumstances. His other work exquisitely studies the details of traditional architecture—from palaces to farmhouses—in a soft dim light. Joo’s most outstanding works are the dark abstract landscapes that characterize his later evolution as an artist.
Among the most iconic images in Joo’s early work are portraits of children born of Korean women and American servicemen. Collectively known as Mr. Holt’s Orphanage/The Mixed Names (1965), these war orphans’ images reject mere judgment or sympathy. Widely published at the time, these photographs are now considered a cornerstone of Korean Realism. Inspired in part by Margret Mead’s “Family” (1965), Korean Families, the family portraits he shot on location during the 70s, both celebrate and question the fundamental values of rural and urban life amid rapid modernization.
In the 80s and 90s, Korea’s traditional architecture and natural landscapes became dominant in Joo’s work. He records these cultural and historical relics using an ethnographic approach, while evolving a photographic language all his own. In his series of ancient buildings, details like carved wood flower patterns evoke the calm and timeless ambiance of environments fallen into the shadows of modern Korea. In his Lost Landscapes (1987-2001) series, Joo depicts breathtaking vistas of indigenous mountains, forests, trees, flowers and grasses, all within an extremely narrow range of dusky black tones (described by critics as “Joo Myung Duck Black”). For more than a decade, Joo has obsessively photographed such landscapes, experimenting for the first time in photographic abstraction. In the gallery’s back office, we will also present a small selection of Joo’s rare still-life work, Rose (2008), as well as his most recent and never-shown Waterlilies (2007/10).
Joo Myung Duck was born in 1940 in Hwanghae Province, now part of North Korea. His family moved south shortly after the end of the Japanese occupation in 1945. While studying history at Kyung-Hee University in Seoul, he engaged in a great deal of mountain climbing and taking photographs. His first one-person show, Mr. Holt’s Orphanage in Seoul in 1966, caused a sensation. Between 1969 and 19XX he worked for Monthly Joong-Ang as a photojournalist, contributing numerous photo essays. Other solo exhibitions include Lyric of Korea (1981), Lotte Museum, Seoul, Landscape (1989), Seoul Museum, Seoul, The Space of Korea (1994), Aichi Arts Center, Nagoya, Japan, An Die Photographie (1999), Kumho Museum, Seoul, Incheon Chinatown 1968 (2002), The Museum of Photography, Seoul, and Portrait of Memory (2007), Circulo de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain. A two-part museum retrospective took place at Daelim Museum (Seoul) in 2008 and 2009. Joo’s work has been published in numerous magazines and books, including Lost Landscapes (1993), Rose (2009), and The Abstract in Photography (2008).
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