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b. 1955, South Korea

Ahn Kyuchul Biography

Ahn Kyuchul is a multi-disciplinary Korean contemporary artist known for examining the interrelationships between objects and symbols, as well as humans and the function of art.

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Early Sculptures

Ahn Kyuchul graduated with a BFA in Sculpture from Seoul National University in 1977, and worked as a journalist for the arts magazine Gyegan Misul between 1980 and 1987. Works from this period consist of small-scale sculptures made from paper clay and plaster, which became known as 'narrative sculptures', as a response to the populist narratives proliferating in commercial art in Korea.

Ahn moved to Paris in 1987, and then to Germany, where he studied at State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart. He began to create 'object sculptures' out of ordinary objects, such as Solidarity Makes Freedom (1992), in which three coats are connected by their arms in solidarity and their tags make up the artwork's title.

Meta Art

Since the early years of his career, Ahn Kyuchul has been concerned with the function of art in a rapidly changing world. In the late 1990s, against the backdrop of an increasingly media-based world, Ahn turned to investigate the relationship between objects and their users by subverting expectations associated with commonplace items. Art, as the artist told Sisa Journal in 1996, could prompt conversations about contemporary phenomena to interrogate what is being produced and consumed.

In Life (2017), the equations painted on canvases—'LIFE + ART = LIFE' and 'LIFE - ART = LIFE'—seem to challenge art's relevance, suggesting that it does not add to or subtract significantly from life. Yet, it also demonstrates what art must do in order to contribute to the world. Writing for Art in Culture in 2020, Ahn notes that while art does not need to be political, it can enrich the present by 'fighting indifference, showing solidarity' and 'writing a letter for someone else', among other interventions.

Communication

A key theme that emerged from Ahn Kyuchul's long-standing exploration of art is the significance of communication, as seen in the two participatory projects at Invisible Land of Love, his major solo exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, in 2015. The project 1000 Scribes instructed 1,000 visitors to produce transcriptions from a given selection of novels. The second project, Wall of Memories, asked visitors to write notes relating to their memories and losses, which were then attached to a wall. The results of Wall of Memories were later compiled into a book.

Contradictions and Paradoxes

Ahn's sculptures are often contradictory in their appearance. In Two Bicycles (2014), two bicycles are positioned side by side in opposite directions, so that it becomes impossible to mount either. A wooden chair has paddles in place of its legs in Paddle Chair, while a sheep wearing leopard skin ends up being neither in Leopard Sheep (both 2017). Expectations are never fulfilled, and objects are stuck in stagnant states of in-betweenness. Much like Ahn's attitude towards art, however, his sculptures emphasise the need for action and aspiring to push beyond the status quo.

Education and Writing

From 1997 to 2020, Ahn taught at the Korea National University of Arts, Seoul, while contributing to the literary magazine Hyundae Munhak. In 2021, a collection of his writings and drawings were published under the title The Other Side of Things.

Exhibitions

Ahn's survey exhibition The Other Side of Things (2021) at Kukje Gallery Busan saw the artist revisit some of his most iconic works. The coats of Solidarity Makes Freedom, for example, were rearranged into a circular form to prompt questions about the binaries between inside/outside and us/them. Where They Left — Stormy Ocean, which was conceived for the 2012 Gwangju Biennale, is a collection of 200 paintings of the ocean that Ahn placed randomly throughout the city of Gwangju and asked the public to return upon discovery. Around 20 paintings came back. For The Other Side of Things, Ahn remade the original paintings and displayed the series in its entirety.

Further solo exhibitions include Words Just for You, Kukje Gallery, Seoul (2017); Invisible Land of Love, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul (2015); All and but Nothing, HITE Collection, Seoul (2014); Drawn to the Rainbow, Gallery Skape, Seoul (2013); The One and Only Table, Bongsan Cultural Center, Daegu (2013); Forty-Nine Rooms, Rodin Gallery (2004); Trivialities, Artsonje Museum, Gyeongju (1999).

Selected group exhibitions include Seven Moons, Clayarch Gimhae Museum, Korea (2021); Jamunbak Museum Project, Gana Art Center, Seoul (2021); Art and Words 2020, Hakgojae Gallery, Seoul (2020); DMZ, Culture Station Seoul 284 (2019); April the Eternal Voyage, Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, Ansan (2015); Variation of the Moon, Nam June Paik Art Centre, Yongin (2014); Roundtable, 9th Gwangju Biennale (2012).

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021

Exhibition view: Ahn Kyuchul, The Other Side of Things, Kukje Gallery, Busan (13 May–4 July 2021). Courtesy Kukje Gallery.

Ahn Kyuchul Featured Artworks

View All (11)
Solidarity Makes Freedom by Ahn Kyuchul contemporary artwork
Ahn KyuchulSolidarity Makes Freedom, 1992Cloth, wood, and leather
170 x 110 x 5 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Blue Velvet Rooms by Ahn Kyuchul contemporary artwork
Ahn KyuchulBlue Velvet Rooms, 2021Pencil on paper
30 x 42 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
The Use of a Chair by Ahn Kyuchul contemporary artwork
Ahn KyuchulThe Use of a Chair, 2021Pencil on paper
30 x 42 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Incomplete Wall by Ahn Kyuchul contemporary artwork
Ahn KyuchulIncomplete Wall, 2021Pencil on paper
30 x 42 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Box I by Ahn Kyuchul contemporary artwork
Ahn KyuchulBox I, 2017Wood, keyboard, felt
43.5 x 35 x 7.5 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Life by Ahn Kyuchul contemporary artwork
Ahn KyuchulLife, 2017Acrylic on canvas
53 x 41 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
The Glasses by Ahn Kyuchul contemporary artwork
Ahn KyuchulThe Glasses, 1992/2018Marble and steel
5.5 x 28 x 15.5 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery
Paddle Chair by Ahn Kyuchul contemporary artwork
Ahn KyuchulPaddle Chair, 2017Wood
45 x 44.5 x 200 cm
Kukje Gallery Contact Gallery

Ahn Kyuchul Current & Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Ahn Kyuchul, The Other Side of Things at Kukje Gallery, Busan
Open Now
13 May–4 July 2021 Ahn Kyuchul The Other Side of Things Kukje GalleryBusan
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, kukje ON at Kukje Gallery, Online Only, Seoul
Closed
22 April–31 May 2020 Group Exhibition kukje ON Kukje GalleryOnline Only
Contemporary art exhibition, Ahn Kyuchul, Words Just for You at K1, Kukje Gallery, Seoul
Closed
21 February–16 April 2017 Ahn Kyuchul Words Just for You K1, Kukje GallerySeoul

Ahn Kyuchul Represented By

Kukje Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Kukje Gallery Busan, Seoul

Ahn Kyuchul In Ocula Magazine

Minjung Artist Ahn Kyuchul's Difficult Art Ocula Feature Minjung Artist Ahn Kyuchul's Difficult Art By Sherry Paik, Busan

Ahn Kyuchul's retrospective exhibition at Kukje Gallery reflects on three decades of investigating and confronting art's relevance in the world.

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Ahn Kyuchul In Related Press

Conceptual artists say more with less: Ahn Kyuchul and Ryan Gander embrace storytelling in artwork Related Press Conceptual artists say more with less: Ahn Kyuchul and Ryan Gander embrace storytelling in artwork 30 March 2017, Korea Joongang Daily

Conceptual art pieces are often shunned by the non-expert audience, as the works, many of which feature the re-contextualization of everyday objects, tend to lack visual impact and look very dry. And the ideas that they carry tend to be difficult to understand immediately. But the exceptions can be found in two ongoing exhibitions in the art...

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Ahn Kyu-chul discovers paradox from everyday objects Related Press Ahn Kyu-chul discovers paradox from everyday objects 13 March 2017, The Korea Times

A chair with legs made of paddles ( Paddle Chair ), a bicycle with two handlebars and front wheels and the other with two seats and rear wheels ( Two Bicycles ) and a bell made of felt that cannot produce sound ( Silent Bell ). These ordinary yet paradoxical objects are part of artist Ahn Kyu-chul's solo exhibit Words Just for You at the Kukje...

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