The Korean modern art has a history of its own, most often triggered by the social and political shifts happening throughout the decades. The most important movement that happened after WW II emerged in the 1970s and it was called Dansaekhwa; a group of artists started manipulating with a myriad of tools directly on the canvas (by squeezing paint directly on canvas; dragging pencils, ripping paper, etc.) developing an authentic form of nonfigurative monochrome minimalism.
The upcoming exhibition called The Eastern Gesture – Five Voices from the Korean Avant-garde at Dep Art Gallery will bring the leading avant-garde practitioners who were either part of the movement or affiliated with the same so that the Western audience can understand better the tendencies that influenced the further development of Korean art.
With this exhibition, curator Gianluca Ranzi tends to revisit some of the most dominating painterly positions in the Korean art of the second half of the 20th century.
To do so, he selected twenty medium and large format artworks that will unravel the complexities caused by traditional and modern influences. The works by Chun Kwang Young, Park Seo-Bo, Lee Bae, Lee Ufan, and Kim Tschang-Yeul will be articulated in the chronological context with the special emphasis on the importance of the Dansaekhwa art movement.
The first artist within the selection is Kim Tschang-Yeul (b. 1929), who was the central figure in the renovation of Korean art which happened between the 1950s and the 1960s. By appropriating painterly patterns found in the European Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism, this artist gradually formed his personal aesthetic, characterized by the constellations of water drops painted in a hyper-realistic manner on neutral backgrounds.
The second artist whose works will be displayed is Park Seo-Bo (b. 1931). By focusing on the traditional use of the Hanji paper the artist explored repetitiveness of the rigorous abstract forms while searching for meditative and objective qualities that the painting can evoke.
Among this selection of artists, Lee Ufan (1936-) is perhaps the best known internationally due to his collaboration as an artist and theorist with the Japanese Mono-Ha group. Throughout the years, Lee constructed a specific reductionist method based on the usage of lines and fluid brushstrokes reminiscent of calligraphic tradition.
Chung Kwang Young (1944-) combines painting and sculpture by producing multilayered surfaces consisting of pieces of Mulberry paper packages dyed with tea or other natural pigments. These crystalline structures evoke a sense of mystery while exploring the dualities such as harmony and conflict, nature and culture, order and chaos.
The youngest artist to be presented will be Lee Bae (1956-). His monochromatic practice is focused on the exploration of blackness in both symbolical and formal sense. The abstract aesthetic formed throughout the years is most often expressed by the artist through various media spanning from drawing and painting to sculpture and installation.
A bilingual catalog (in Italian and English) will accompany the exhibition, and it will include a critical essay written by the curator.
The Eastern Gesture: Five Voices from the Korean Avant-garde - Chun Kwang Young, Park Seo-Bo, Lee Bae, Lee Ufan, Kim Tschang-Yeul will be on view at Dep Art Gallery in Milan from 4 March until 9 May 2020.
Featured images: The Eastern Gesture Five Voices from the Korean Avant-garde, Installation view at Dep Art Gallery All images courtesy of Dep Art Gallery.