Exhibition

Nam June Paik

In Character

June 2, 2017–January 1, 2018

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This exhibition explores the pioneering career of Nam June Paik (1932–2006) through the prism of his close friendships with artists, including Joseph Beuys, John Cage, and Charlotte Moorman. Negotiating his identity between East and West, Paik developed an exuberant artistic language, incorporating Asian characters and symbols of his own devising that recur throughout his multi-faceted creations. Celebrating major gifts and acquisitions from the artist’s relatives, the Hakuta family, Nam June Paik: In Character showcases the late artist’s video sculptures, altered televisions, and an array of drawings and ephemera that have rarely or never been exhibited. Together, this selection spans Paik’s early Fluxus activity and performances to his final autobiographical works, tracing his playful vocabulary across geographic boundaries and artistic media.


Exhibition Preview

Nam June Paik, Self-Portrait, 2005; collection SFMOMA, Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions; © Estate of Nam June Paik; photo: Katherine Du Tiel

Nam June Paik, Untitled (TV Ghosting), 2005; collection SFMOMA, gift of the Hakuta family; © Estate of Nam June Paik; photo: Katherine Du Tiel

Nam June Paik, Untitled (TV Character), 1978; collection SFMOMA, gift of the Hakuta family; © Estate of Nam June Paik; photo: Katherine Du Tiel


Watch

Ken Hakuta describes the experience of growing up with his uncle, the artist Nam June Paik, who was at the vanguard of video, sculpture, and performance art. He shares unique insight into a large group of works by Paik, who experimented with ways to distort the images on television screens, created robots from miscellaneous found objects, and even made artwork from Hakuta’s broken childhood toys.

Explore Nam June Paik’s Notebooks
In conjunction with the exhibition Nam June Paik: In Character, SFMOMA has made available here three notebooks from the SFMOMA collection that Paik used in 1980, 1987, and 1996. Offering intimate access to the process of this renowned and prolific artist, the newly digitized notebooks foreground Paik's wide-ranging experimentation with drawing, a medium in which he developed a distinctive and playful pictorial vocabulary. His works on paper incorporate Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters as well as symbols of his own devising, including hieroglyphs of frequent subjects such as televisions, birds, and Buddhas.

The ongoing care and support for the Nam June Paik Collection at SFMOMA is provided by the Hakuta Family Nam June Paik Conservation Endowed Fund.

Header image: Nam June Paik, Self-Portrait, 2005 (detail); collection SFMOMA, Phyllis C. Wattis Fund for Major Accessions; © Estate of Nam June Paik.

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