I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...
The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...
The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...
The Dansaekhwa monochrome movement is a synthesis between traditional Korean spirit and Western abstraction, which emerged in the early to mid 1970s in Korea. The artists affiliated with the movement primarily share a restricted palette of neutral hues – mainly white, beige and black – from which the term dansaekhwa (‘single colour’) originated.
Yun Hyong-keun (윤형근) was a prominent figure of the modern Korean art movement known as Dansaekhwa, whose monumental, abstract artworks were theoretically rooted in traditional Korean ideals and are stylistically evocative of modern Western abstraction. The term Dansaekhwa (or 'monochrome painting') refers to a visual style maintained by a loose constellation of Korean artists who created radically experimental paintings between the 1960s and 80s (other major figures include Lee Ufan, Park Seo-bo, and Chung Sang-hwa). Having lived through one of the most devastating eras of Korean history—tainted by successive periods of occupation, domestic turmoil, and postwar dictatorship—Yun channelled his traumas into his artistic practice and became a champion of the modern Korean art canon.
Born in Cheongju while Korea was still under repressive Japanese rule, Yun's coming of age paralleled the end of Japanese colonisation (1910–1945) and the beginning of the Korean War (1950–1953). In 1947, Yun enrolled in the College of Fine Arts at Seoul National University (SNU) where he met Kim Whanki, his mentor and later father-in-law. Yun forged his early style under the guidance of Kim, creating large, brightly coloured, and lyrical compositions that were animated by an array of spheres taking form within dense encrustations of paint. Yun received his BFA from Seoul's Hongik University in 1957, held his first solo show at the Press Center Gallery in Seoul in 1966, and quickly gained international recognition.
Despite his success, the three decades of Yun's life following his move to Seoul were punctuated by hostile encounters with the Korean government, including four imprisonments and a narrow escape from execution by firing squad. His first incarceration occurred at SNU in 1949, when he was detained and expelled for participating in a protest against the US Army's involvement in the University's establishment. He was arrested again in 1950 when the South Korean government's Bodo League began detaining and executing those with affiliations—however tenuous—with the North. After escaping execution, Yun was forced to work for the North Korean army; in 1956, he was accused of communist activities for doing so and was incarcerated yet again. Finally, in 1973, while working as a high school art teacher, he spoke out against the unethical admission of an unqualified student who had connections to the Korean CIA and was arrested two days later for wearing a Mariner's cap similar to those worn by Lenin and Mao.
Ultimately, it was the culmination of these turbulent incidents that propelled Yun to devote himself to art at age 45 and catalysed the development of his mature style. Over the course of the next four decades, Yun demonstrated a near-obsessive commitment to his craft, creating countless paintings for a series of poignant meditations titled 'Burnt Umber and Ultramarine'. After 1973, his art became deeply personal, with Yun once divulging in an artist statement: 'Even though the period of youth during one's twenties should be great, I spent mine living in a nightmare. Thus, the warm and beautiful colours disappeared from my works and were replaced with dark and heavy hues.'
Yun restricted his palette to somber earth tones by meticulously superimposing and blending multiple coats of burnt umber (rusty red) and ultramarine (deep blue) oil paints. To him, these two colours represent earth and heaven; the artist referred to his monumental works as 'the gate of heaven and earth.' Yun diligently deposited layers of pigment onto raw cotton or linen, creating nebulous rectilinear pillars that appear almost black. Then, he diluted the paint with turpentine until it fused with the cloth. Using this method, Yun sought to endow his works with an ethereal, fearsome quality reminiscent of the powerful forces of nature.
The tragedy of the Gwangju Massacre in 1980 initiated another development in Yun's style. Reflecting his anger toward the political climate, Yun's recurring black pillars no longer stood vertically, but diagonally and horizontally, as if they were falling or collapsing. In the 1990s, these amorphous dark forms evolved once more, becoming more prominent in his overall compositions and exhibiting more rigidly defined outer lines. Yun continued producing these 'gates of heaven and earth' until his death in 2007.
Over the course of his life, Yun held numerous solo exhibitions in South Korea and Japan and showed his works in Taiwan, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Belgium, among others. He also participated in several biennials, including the São Paulo Biennial (1969, 1975); the Venice Biennale (1995); and the Gwangju Biennale (2000). Yun's work continues to be shown internationally. In 2018, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul organised Yun Hyong Keun, a retrospective of his lifework.
Blum & Poe is pleased to present a concise survey of 13 works by Yun Hyong-keun (1928–2007), one of the leading figures of Dansaekhwa, the monochrome painting movement that redefined Korean art starting in the mid-1960s. This is Yun’s first solo exhibition with the gallery and his first posthumous solo presentation in North America.
The Dansaekhwa artists variously soaked canvas, pushed paint, dragged pencils, ripped paper, and otherwise manipulated the materials of painting in ways that questioned the terms by which the medium was known. One of the most important and successful artistic movements of 20th-century Korea, Dansaekhwa was promoted in Seoul, Tokyo, and Paris, quickly becoming the globally recognized face of contemporary Korean art.
From the beginning of the 1970s, Yun produced his distinctive Umber Blue series. Straddling the division between ink and oil painting, these abstractions are neither geometric nor gestural. Restricting his palette to umber and ultramarine, Yun diluted the paint with turpentine and allowed it to wash over the canvas, layering it over days, weeks or months to create intense fields of darkness. Each layer of pigment seeped into the fibers at a different rate, resulting in blurred edges along the unmarked expanses of canvas. In the 1990s, these boundaries gradually became more defined, eventually sharpening into hard edges in the final decade of the artist’s life.
This exhibition has been organized in collaboration with the Estate of Yun Hyong-keun and PKM Gallery, Seoul.
Previously, Yun was featured in the survey From All Sides: Dansaekhwa on Abstraction, held in September 2014 at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, and curated by Joan Kee, Associate Professor of History of Art at the University of Michigan. He was also included in PROPORTIO, a critically acclaimed exhibition that explored universal proportions in art, science, music and architecture, held from May to November 2015 at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice, Italy.
Yun Hyong-keun was born in Miwŏn, Korea, in 1928, and graduated from the Department of Painting, Hongik University, Seoul, in 1957. He has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions in Korea, Japan, Germany, France and the United States, including at the Judd Foundation, New York (1993), and the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX (1994). The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Strasbourg, France, held a major retrospective in 2002. His work has also been celebrated in landmark surveys such as Dansaekhwa: Korean Monochrome Painting, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Gwacheon (2012); Korean Abstract Art: 1958–2008, Seoul Museum of Art (2008); Gwangju Biennale (2000); Venice Biennale (1995); Working With Nature: Traditional Thought in Contemporary Art from Korea, Tate Liverpool (1992); and the São Paulo Biennial (1969, 1975).
The Dansaekhwa monochrome movement is a synthesis between traditional Korean spirit and Western abstraction, which emerged in the early to mid 1970s in Korea. The artists affiliated with the movement primarily share a restricted palette of neutral hues – mainly white, beige and black – from which the term dansaekhwa (‘single...
Shrewd observers may have noticed that the busy fall season of new exhibitions opening and ongoing in New York has turned the spotlight on several prominent, senior Korean artists associated with the so-called monochrome painting movement, or Dansaekhwa.
Galerie Perrotin, New York has just opened Meditation, its second exhibition devoted to the work of the late Korean artist Chung Chang-Sup, which runs through December 23. On display are some 19 paintings focusing on artworks from the early series Return and Meditation.
The art world’s surging interest in dansaekhwa, or Korean abstract monochrome paintings, is still going strong. The ongoing trend was evident at the Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain (FIAC) art fair that ran from Oct. 21 to 25 in Paris. At the booth of the Seoul-based Kukje Gallery, viewers stopped to see paintings by dansaekhwa...
Ha Chong-hyun, 80, is one of the first generation of Dansaekhwa, or Korean monochrome, painters. Despite his age, the artist never rests. He still spends six to 10 hours in his studio six days a week, challenging himself to try new things.A solo exhibition underway at Kukje Gallery in downtown Seoul contains Ha's latest works from his...
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