Nam June Paik

Untitled

2003

Not on display

Artist
Nam June Paik 1932–2006
Medium
Acrylic paint, pastel and paper on printed paper
Dimensions
Support: 578 x 360 mm
Collection
Presented by the Hakuta Family (Tate Americas Foundation) 2014
On long term loan
Reference
L03649

Summary

Untitled is a pastel and acrylic drawing on newsprint by the Korean artist Nam June Paik. The front page of a May 2003 edition of the International Herald Tribune is covered with abstract lines and shapes in black, red, white, green and yellow. The central image on the page – the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell in conversation with the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs – is framed by what seems to be a television casing, making the image appear as if on a television screen. Powell is shown holding his hands together in a pose reminiscent of prayer, and a series of daubs of yellow paint stretch from the tips of his fingers to the topmost edge of the page. This central image is accompanied by a series of loose rectangular motifs in green, each suggestive of a television set and containing a rudimentary smiling face. The newsprint page is signed and dated in graphite by the artist in the bottom right corner while a white typed address label is affixed to the top right corner.

Paik made this mixed-media sketch in 2003 in New York, where he had moved to live and work in 1964. Colin Powell had visited Ankara in Turkey in April 2003 in an attempt to heal a major rift in American-Turkish relations, which had been caused by disagreements over the George Bush administration’s response to hostilities in neighbouring Iraq. Paik’s reframing of the image – from static photograph to something suggestive of the sound and motion of television news – is indicative of the important place of television in his work. The action also signals a comment on the flow of news and the power of television as a communicator of information. In a pre-internet era Paik predicted that ‘technology would enable people to communicate immediately’ (quoted in Tate Liverpool 2010, p.6). For Paik, television was an instrument in a global network of communication. These ideas are echoed in works throughout Paik’s career and in a range of media, for instance Zen for TV 1963/82 (reproduced in Tate Liverpool 2010, p.105), I Ching TV, TV of Change 1974 and Golden Buddha 2005 (reproduced in Gagosian Hong Kong 2015, pp.34 and 67).

Paik’s body of work includes performances, installations, sculptures and assemblages, as well as paintings, drawings, films and live links via satellite. Paik was a pioneering figure in video art and experimented with media and television. In 1971 he commented that ‘the nature of environment is much more on TV than on film or painting. In fact, TV (its random movement of tiny electrons) is the environment of today’ (quoted in Tate Liverpool 2010, p.115). However, drawing and sketching were always central to Paik’s artistic practice, offering an immediate and direct method of developing and conveying ideas that were integral to his thinking as a whole. As historian and curator John G. Hanhardt has written: ‘From early on, Paik drew in the margins of his writings … and used the graphic arts as a means to poetically expand on the forms he was exploring in new media technology’ (Hanhardt, ‘Nam June Paik: The Late Style (1996–2006)’, in Gagosian Hong Kong 2015, p.13). In this sketch Paik reframes a serious political newspaper story printed in black and white within a simplistic sketch of a television in vivid colours. As in Untitled c.1978 (Tate L03645), the technology of television and the movement of information become the primary subject of Paik’s art.

Further reading
The Worlds of Nam June Paik, exhibition catalogue, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 2000.
Nam June Paik, exhibition catalogue, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool 2010.
Nam June Paik: The Late Style, exhibition catalogue, Gagosian Hong Kong, Hong Kong 2015.

Beth Williamson
May 2016

Supported by Christie’s.

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Display caption

Paik takes the front page of an edition of the International Herald Tribune and repurposes it with abstracted lines and shapes, as well as smiling television screens. He also frames the central image – the US Secretary of State Colin Powell in conversation with the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs –with what appears to be a television casing. The gesture suggests a comment on the circulation of news and the power of television as a disseminator of information.

Gallery label, February 2016

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

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