_______________________________I hope anyone who reads this will take advantage of the wonderful work of Johsel Namkung now on exhibit at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
I have been so lucky to have known Johsel for 30 years. When I joined the Dept. of Pathology at the UW in the early 70s, Jo was our "scientific photographer." Actually his real job was to do art. The Chairman of the Dept., Earl Benditt, was very much involved in art as well as science and saw Jo has a wonderful addition to a department doing a lot of electron microscopy.
This was a "marriage" blessed by the gods. Jo was far, far better than just a scientific photographer. In effect Earl was playing Medici.
Jo's real work was, and is impossible to describe. He was a member of the small clique sometimes called the Seattle Blue Movement ... Toby, Callahan, Hovaness, Graves, John Cage ... and Johsel Namkung. I suppose a deconstructionist might see something in common ... calligraphy, atonality, muted colors in the mists. I am not so certain.
There always has been something in Jo's work that was .. ordinary. Ordinary things, ordinary beautiful things. Ordinary beautiful things that I probably would not have seen if I were next to Jo with my own camera because they were too ordinary. When he talks about the work there is a lot of reference to the discipline of Ansel Adams,. Adams, besides a romanticism that I find overwhelming and even a bit kitsch, was also a musician and taught how to see photographs in tonal terms .. like notes. This teaching is called the zone system, Yes Jo is a master of the zone system. But, like Adams Jo is also a musician. a wonderful singer of lieder. His images are as much music as they are graphics.
On the past, the orderliness of Jo's images got in the way. But now, with is latest work, he seems to have me to have found a way to play the tunes so we can all hear. I was overwhelmed. For an interview with Johsel, click here.
At the same time, the Burke museum has an insipid, boring collection of historic images of rivers .. including the awful image reproduced here. How sad. At one time the Burke championed real art. Unfortunately they made a deal with a rich donor, Monson, and have bought his collection. Truth be told, a lot of it is good but some of this belongs back chez Monson. Worse, the Monsons got a big tax benefit out of donating this stuff. Sad.