Kukje Gallery is pleased to present The Art of Dansaekhwa
, an exhibition showcasing masterworks from the celebrated art historical movement. Curated by professor Yoon Jin-Sup the exhibition presents the works of Kim Guiline, Park Seo-Bo, Yun Hyong-Keun, Lee Ufan, Chung Chang-Sup, Chung Sang-Hwa, and Ha Chong-Hyun, the seven artists who spearheaded the development and dissemination of Dansaekhwa in the 1970s. By showcasing these artists together Yoon re-contextualizes the origins of Dansaekwha through the lens of Korean modernism. And by highlighting early works the exhibition conveys the vibrancy and immediacy of the original Dansaekwa artists. The Art of Dansaekwha especially captures the importance of traditional Korean philosophy, the innovative use of materials, and the performative aspect of studio practice, all of which were key components of the movement. The exhibition illustrates these ideas amongst the overlapping and complimentary elements of the artist’s works, capturing their disciplined approach and aesthetic vocabularies.
Korean Dansaekhwa, also referred to as baeksaekpa (the School of White) emerged in the 1970s as a reaction against the academicism of the National Art Exhibition and in response to the rapidly changing social and political landscape within the country. Characterized by its emphasis on monochromatic compositions and refined approach to materiality, Dansaekwha was immediately associated with questions of Korean cultural identity and the burgeoning modern art movement. What defined the Dansaekwha movement was a deep philosophical commitment to the power and indigenous vitality of traditional materials as well as the relationship between the artist’s consciousness and the act of making. This focus on studio process has led many scholars and artists to characterize Dansaekhwa as a type of “performance” based on its highly specific, intentional processes used in the making of artworks. In this definition the preparation and action implied in making a painting achieves a level of mindfulness akin to that seen in meditation. This emphasis on developing specific techniques (described in more detail in the artist bios), and using traditional materials in order to synthesize their aesthetic vocabulary and philosophical intent linked all of the artists, defining the movement.
Using painting techniques from both the west and the east, Dansaekwha artists regularly employed raw burlap and hanji paper in totally new and innovative ways using western idioms while simultaneously modifying them to engage with traditional aesthetics. This willingness to adopt ideas from western modernity allowed for the movement to engage in a global dialogue while fostering radical new hybrid techniques that continue to be associated with Dansaekwha. This approach was not without controversy, however, as the artists who championed the philosophy and formal strategies of Dansaekwha were often out-spoken critics of the western influence in Korea and the rapid pace of modernization. Indeed, it was this tension filtered through the highly refined artwork that characterizes Dansaekwha and makes it such a profoundly important art movement.
Kukje Gallery’s The Art of Dansaekhwa provides a rare opportunity to reinvestigate the historical evolution of modern art practice in Korea. Having developed at a time of rapid change in Korea’s political and socio-economic landscape, Dansaekwha reflects the social milieu in which these artists lived and worked. The exhibition not only conveys how the Dansaekhwa movement flourished within the then contemporary art scene, but more importantly it establishes the significance and value of Korean Dansaekhwa within a broader international context. Installed in all three of Kukje Gallery’s building’s K1, K2, and K3, The Art of Dansaekwha is a rare opportunity to reevaluate one of Korea’s most important contributions to art history.
Press release courtesy Kukje Gallery.