J.P. Park holds the June and Simon Li Professorship in the History of Chinese Art. Professor Park is a Fellow of Lincoln College. Professor Park is on academic leave during 2023-4.
Bio: Although my primary research focuses on early modern Chinese and Korean art, I have extensively researched and published on a much wider spectrum of art historical topics, including print culture, cartography, literary criticism, art forgery, and post-globalism in contemporary East Asian art. I have authored a number of single-authored books, an exhibition catalogue, and an edited volume as well as dozens of articles featured in major field journals such as Art Bulletin, Archives of Asian Art, Artibus Asiae, Third Text, and Orientations among many others.
My first book, Art by the Book: Painting Manuals and the Leisure Life in Late Ming China (1550–1644) (University of Washington Press, 2012), focuses on “how to paint” publications that achieved unprecedented levels of popularity among the public in early modern China. As a special commodity in early modern China, when cultural standing was measured by one’s command of literati taste and lore, painting manuals provided the growing reading public with a device for enhancing its social capital. In their textual and pictorial guidance, these books were designed to advance the public’s pursuit of artistic taste, technique, knowledge, and sensibility, all of which were promoted as prerequisites to claiming elite status. Therefore, what I attempt to explore in this book is how painting intersected with social positioning and the subjectivity of superiority. The fundamental question of my ongoing research is “Why did possessing artistic talent become so important in early modern China?” This book has been warmly embraced by scholars, garnering numerous book reviews. It was also a finalist for the esteemed Charles Rufus Morey Book Award in 2014, a pinnacle honor within the realm of art history.
My second book, A New Middle Kingdom: Painting and Cultural Politics in Late Chosŏn Korea (1700–1850) (University of Washington Press, 2018) is recognized as a touchstone in the study of Korean Art history. Historians have claimed that when social stability returned to Korea after devastating invasions by the Japanese and Manchus around the turn of the seventeenth century, the late Chosŏn dynasty was a period of unprecedented economic and cultural renaissance, in which prosperity manifested itself in new programs and styles of visual art. A New Middle Kingdom questions this belief, claiming instead that true-view landscape and genre paintings were likely adopted to propagandize social harmony under Chosŏn rule and to justify the status, wealth, and land grabs of the ruling class. This book also documents the popularity of art books from China and their misunderstanding by Koreans and, most controversially, Korean enthusiasm for artistic programs from Edo Japan, thus challenging academic stereotypes and nationalistic tendencies in the scholarship about the Chosŏn period. As the first truly interdisciplinary study of Korean art, A New Middle Kingdom points to realities of late Chosŏn society that its visual art seemed to hide and deny. The book's impact is evidenced by its receipt of the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award in 2020, the preeminent accolade for academic authors in the field of art history.
Recently, I have completed the manuscript for my third book, Reinventing Art History: Forgery and Counterforgery in Early Modern Chinese Art (University of California Press, forthcoming). This project takes its genesis from a fundamental inquiry: how do we distinguish historical veracity from fiction? The narrative revolves around a book published in early modern China. In 1634, Zhang Taijie (b. 1588), an erudite scholar-official, produced a woodblock edition of A Record of Treasured Paintings (Baohuilu), an extensive compendium of his personal painting collection. While potentially serving as a valuable resource for Chinese art historians due to its documentation of master artists’ works that no longer existed, a significant dilemma emerged: the book was a forgery. Zhang ingeniously and meticulously fabricated the entire contents of the book. These contrived contents were subsequently replicated by various authors and even consulted by art forgers seeking to confer authenticity upon their creations. My research delves into the methodologies employed by early modern Chinese artists and scholars in executing their fabrications and forgeries. At a deeper level, I explore the assimilation of these historical and analytical anomalies into the realm of Chinese art study.
Furthermore, in 2012, I curated an exhibition titled “Keeping It Real: Korean Artists in the Age of Multi-Media Representation.” I also authored the catalogue of the same title (Workroom, 2012) for the exhibition. Throughout the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue articles, my aim was to challenge the concept of “Korean” art and to scrutinize the contemporary art world's utilization of the term “global.” Moreover, I have co-edited A Companion to Korean Art (Wiley Blackwell, 2020) with Prof. Juhyung Rhi and Prof. Burglind Jungmann. This work, which stands as the first comprehensive treatise on the history of Korean art, boasts over two hundred thousand words and an array of images. It has swiftly emerged as an indispensable classic for students with an interest in Korean art.
Presently, my focus is directed towards crafting a new book manuscript provisionally titled Pastmodern: The Traditions of the Avantgarde in Early East Asian Art. This ambitious project traverses China, Korea, and Japan, proffering a unique perspective on the tenacity of art history’s institutional narratives in the face of assertions of progressiveness and inclusivity. The project contends that modernities are not confined to Western origins but are instead creative and analytical constructs that have been conceived and practiced across various historical contexts worldwide. As an illustration, while groundbreaking performance art like John Cage’s “4’33” (1952), Rauschenberg’s “Erased De Kooning” (1953), and Jackson Pollock’s action paintings (1950s) are celebrated as pinnacles of artistic originality in the postmodern epoch, lesser-known is the fact that these recent creations and performances possess much earlier antecedents in the annals of East Asian arts. Nonetheless, these East Asian artists and their endeavors have often been marginalized or even expunged from modern art history, thereby concealing genuinely provocative artistic expressions that may predate their Western counterparts by centuries, if not millennia. This intricate aspect of art history necessitates a comprehensive examination of how the concept of “modernity of the past,” which I shall refer to as “pastmodern,” needs to be recognized and grappled with in East Asian history. The concept of “pastmodern,” with its deliberate reversal, erasure, and ultimate negotiation of the traditional boundaries that separate the past from the modern, will provide deeper insight into the intricate interplay of time and history within our contemporary “postmodern” art world.