On leave academic year 2022-2023
Drawing from cross-disciplinary and multiregional perspectives, Joan Kee focuses on how modern and contemporary artworks figure as provocations to structures and frames of reference intended to encompass and absorb various phenomena. Such frames include various conceptions of the "world," the law, standards of value, and theories of information dissemination.
Her first book, Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method (2013), argued how close attention to process embodied in the works of artists like Ha Chonghyun, Park Seobo, Lee Ufan, Yun Hyongkeun and Kwon Young-woo -- exemplified by the term "method" -- functioned as extended arguments for materiality against the imposition of meaning. A finalist for the Charles Rufus Morey Prize for the most distinguished book in art history, Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method has been credited by numerous publications including the New Yorker, the Nation, and the South China Morning Post for bringing international attention to Korean abstraction and to postwar Korean art generally.
Kee is especially interested in what might be called an applied art history, where methods central to the discipline -- close visual analysis in particular -- offer a lens for thinking about extra-artistic phenomena, from law to digital communication. Her second book, Models of Integrity: Art and Law in Post-Sixties America (2019) explores how artists engaged with U.S. law in ways that signaled a recuperation of integrity compromised by the very institutions supposedly entrusted with establishing standards of just conduct. In the vein of an applied art history, Kee is researching another book project concerning the role and relevance of emojis.
Her third project, The Geometries of Afro Asia, asks how we might embark on a history of art that proceeds from the assumption of a global majority. Taking as a rhetorical departure the construct of Afro Asia which doubles as both an ontological reference and an epistemological intervention, this book centers the worlds Black and Asian artists initiate through their work. Spanning Asia, Africa, North America, and Europe, the book brings together questions structuring ethnic studies and area studies, asking how the multivalent nature of Afro Asia summons different bodies of thinking and imagination that productively unsettle some of art history’s key terms, including scale, genre, comparison, medium, and format.
Kee is a contributing editor at Artforum, an editor at large for the Brooklyn Rail, as well on the advisory boards of Art History, the Oxford Art Journal, Modernism/modernity, and Art Margins. She was the Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor of Art History at Williams College in 2021 and a 2019 Kresge Artist Fellow.
- Center for Japanese Studies
- Center for Korean Studies
- Department of History of Art
- Center for Chinese Studies
- Center for Southeast Asian Studies
- Institute for Research on Women and Gender
Field(s) of Study
- Modern and Contemporary Art