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Blum and Poe Presents the First Survey of Korean Monochromatic Painting Dansaekhwa with American Minimalism

  • blum and poe
April 3, 2016
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

Recently, there has been a revival of general interest in Dansaekhwa, the South Korean art movement that emerged in the 1970s. With numerous exhibitions and new academic studies, this important artistic movement is in the long deserved spotlight. The gallery Blum & Poe will be proudly presenting the second installment of the traveling exhibition Dansaekhwa and Minimalism, the first comparative study of Korean monochromatic painting and American Minimalism. With more than twenty paintings and sculptures from the 1960s to the present, the exhibition Dansaekhwa and Minimalism will present the most prominent artists from these two important movements: Carl Andre, Chung Sang-hwa, Ha Chonghyun, Donald Judd, Kwon Young-woo, Lee Ufan, Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, Agnes Martin, Park Seobo, Robert Ryman, Richard Serra, and Yun Hyong-keun.

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Agnes Martin – Untitled #5, 2002 © 2016 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Minimalism of Dansaekhwa

One of the most crucial, famous and successful artistic movements of the 20th-century South Korea, Dansaekhwa literally means ‘monochrome painting’. The term was first used by a critic Lee Yil, referring to abstract paintings created by the group of artists working independently and using the diverse array of methods, while maintaining certain minimal aesthetics. While Chung Sang-hwa created layered grids of cracked and chipped paint, Kwon Young-woo was manipulating the hanji paper, whereas Lee Ufan repeatedly pulled his brush down the canvas letting the paint fade to nothing. All of these artists explored the physical limitations of materials, creating dynamic and versatile bodies of work.

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Left: Kwon Young-woo – Untitled, 1980 © Kwon Young-woo / Right: Kwon Young-woo – Untitled (detail), 1980 © Kwon Young-woo

Dansaekhwa and American Minimalism

The work of Dansaekhwa artists is often compared to the Western minimalism and monochrome art. They both shared a desire to explore the object through its most basic material properties, but the production itself and the conditions in which they created were very diverse. In contrast to the formalist Western perspective and rejection of the mainstream academic art of that time, Dansaekhwa was a reaction against the oppressive regime in South Korea. While Western minimalism was logical, Dansaekhwa was meditative and holistic, accentuating the ‘return to the nature’. This is the first major exhibition bringing these works together, exploring their diversity of aesthetics, perspectives and ideas, and inspiring broader critical discussion.

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Left: Ha Chonghyun / Right: Robert Mangold – Circle Painting 4, 1973 © 2016 Robert Mangold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Dansaekhwa and Minimalism at Blum and Poe

After the recent large-scale presentation in Los Angeles, the second installment in New York presents a more intimate focus on smaller-scale works. Dansaekhwa and Minimalism will be on show at Blum and Poe in New York from April 14th till May 21st, 2016. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring original scholarship by leading authorities in the fields of Dansaekhwa and American Minimalism. In September 2014, Blum and Poe presented the exhibition entitled From All Sides: Tansaekhwa on Abstraction, the first major overview of Korean monochromatic painting in North America, laying the groundwork for further in-depth presentations of the featured artists.

Editors’ Tip: Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekhwa and the Urgency of Method by Joan Kee

Explore further about this influential art movement. One of the most successful and most popular art movements in South Korea, Dansaekhwa grew to be the international face of contemporary Korean art and a cornerstone of contemporary Asian art. In this full-color and richly illustrated a book, Joan Kee gives a new interpretation of this important movement, putting it in the perspective of the history of abstraction and the Asian art in the 20th century. In making her point, Kee combines close reading, archival research and interviews with prominent artists that represented this movement, examining their exploration to find their own style in order to break away from Japanese or Western art influences. This is the first in-depth examination of Korean monochromatic painting published in English language.

Featured image: Lee Ufan – From Line No. 800117, 1980 © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. All images courtesy of Blum and Poe.