Young Min Moon

Young Min Moon

Fellow: Awarded 2014
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Young Min Moon immigrated to Canada as a teen in the 1980s, and divides his time between Massachusetts and Seoul, Korea. Moon’s practice of art and writing is informed by his experience of migration across cultures and the hybridized nature of identities in the context of the historical and political relationship between modern Asia and North America. His interest in Asian modernity and visual culture is predicated by the geopolitical specificities of Korea seen from postcolonial perspective.

Moon’s recent paintings, collectively entitled Some Sense of Order, pertain to Jesa, a Confucian ritual performed in South Korea as remembrance of ancestors and funerary rite of mourning for the deceased. Jesa is not a religious practice, but a form of civil ethics, one that stresses the relational nature of all human existence. However, it is a cultural practice of humanism increasingly denounced by many of its own people.


Through repetition, Moon’s paintings depict men engaged in the act of prostration. His work represents the forms of ritual that may sooner or later disappear in this age of globalization and westernization. The work represents some sense of order particular to his hybrid upbringing in both Confucian and Catholic order in South Korea, as well as the task of translating the dissonance found in the physical manifestation of the spiritual into the material language of painting. Invoking modesty, humbleness, and pause, his paintings offer slow and quiet resistance to the pervasive norm of bombastic culture of spectacle. Implicit in them is fundamental questioning of verticality, velocity, progress, and the emphasis on the “I.” While investing non-Western perspectives into the medium of oil painting, the work also represents men reflecting the unknown realm after death, without illustrating images of death.

Moon has exhibited his work at Kukje Gallery, Kumho Museum of Art, Art Space Pool, Space O’NewWall, and the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, in South Korea, and Smith College Art Museum, and Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, among other venues. Active also as critic, Moon has published a bilingual Korean-English catalogue for his curatorial project Incongruent: Contemporary Art from South Korea. Moon has contributed scholarly essays to Rethinking Marxism, BOL, and Contemporary Art in Asia: A Critical Reader. He has guest-edited the special issue on the aftereffects of war in Asia for the online peer review journal Trans Asia Photography Review. Moon is an associate professor in the Department of Art at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


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