Cho Duck Hyun
Jun 22, 1993 - Jul 30, 1993
K1 Seoul

Cho Duck-Hyun is quickly becoming one of Korea's internationally best known artists. His work has a sophisticated understanding of the formal nature of art and he has a shrewd comprehension of art history and cultural hegemony. Metaphors of location abound in his art and for the purposes of this essay I would like to confine muself to touching on some of the moral issues located in his works of the past six years.
For me, as an European. Cho Duck-Hyun's work can best be cast within the gener of history painting. Few artists in the post-Second World War era have made that tradition their field of endeavor. One of the most ambitious projects has been Anselm Kiefer's attempt to rehabilitate German Romanticism after its debasement by the Nazi regime. Through the incorporation of Jewish mysticism. German mythology, cultural figures and sites pertinent to the war. Kiefer has strived to return spiritual possibility to a culture scarred by atrocity. This healing of history also forms the intentions of Cho Duck-Hyun but for a very different set of circumstances.
Cho began his major series A Memory of the 20th Century in 1990. The work of the late eighties dealt with the artist's difficulties with his relationship to the European art traditon. In the series entitled Multivison. Michelangelo's figures clash with Korean contemporary dress. A Renaissance head shares the same ground as a Korean face. Classical ballet dancers pirouette beside a slain peasant. Incongruity and deracination reign.
It is not a coincidence that the first truly historical work was undertaken following a trip to Germany in 1990. The Site - Gate of Brandenburg developed the visual vocabulary for the subseqrent Memory series. Using nine panels in a square configuration. Cho covered eight with topographical maps of South Korea. The center panel holds a drawing of a massacre. Attached to and leaning of the work are a magnifying glass, a candle in a wooden and glass holder, and a pair of wire cutters--objects useful for escape across frontiers. The image and the frame belong to Korea, the tools for freedom belong to everyone. The work reminds us that ideological division that once spanned the world has crumbled, now finding its only and last existence in the DMZ between North and South Korea.
Cho has created more than thirty works in these series in the last five years. For him, the twentieth century's history is not a dry academic pursuit but a palpable living memory. These works insist on the immedicacy of the events they portray. They are critical of some trends in Korea that attempt to refuse to acknowledge of try to suppress painful incidents of the past century. The proposed demolition of the National Museum building, the official silence about the Kwang-Ju massacre (now this has been broken). Cho sees these activities as detrimental to the health of the nation. The semantics of the series is telling. He sites the story of these events within individual experience. No matter how officials may wish to create the "history", too many of these events remain with the "memory" of individuals and families. The social rift caused by the economic revolution of the past two decades in Korea may herald a new materialism but Cho's suggests that the cost of that gain cannot be paid for by a cultural amnesia masking the pain and suffering of previous generations.
This point is further amplified in the parallel series The History of Korean Women. Here the semantic emphasis is on the official - the status of women and their contribution to the survival and growth of Korea. Their efforts have gone uncelebrated due to their relegated status within a five hundred year old social system. Cho proposes, in the manner of new historicism, that the events associated with the past, and indeed with the future of Korea, are inextricably bound with the fates of these women and that official and social recognition of their important contributions must occur.
Cho's willingness to assume responsibility towards major issues in his country must be appreciated for imaginative and symbolic gesture that it is. Within the highly coded arena of social interchange in Korea, polemics of any nature would not receive a hearing. Cho uses indirection to challenge the existing power structure and its associated assumptions. And like the artist Joseph Beuys, he seeks by a sympathetic act to redress societal imbalance through an art of beauty and composure.
Patrick T. Murphy Director
Institute fo Contemporary Art University of Pennsylvania Philandelphia

조덕현은 빛 바랜 흑백사진에 포착된 한국 근현대사의 단편들을 등신대 이상으로 확대하여 캔버스에 사실적으로 묘사하는 회화작업을 한다. 정교하고 섬세한 드로잉은 다양한 방식의 설치 작업을 통하여 그의 화면 상에서 재현되는 한민족의 근현대사와 개인사의 편린들이 현대적인 조형어법으로 제시된다.
그의 작업은 역사적 사건의 현장을 담은 다큐멘터리 사진을 통해서 제시되는 객관성과 이러한 역사를 배경으로 존재하는 개개인의 주관적인 순간들을 연결하여 역사와 개인, 과거와 현재가 공존하는 모습을 회화적으로 재현한다.
1999년 전남 영암 구림 마을에서는 마을 이름이 개에서 유래한다는 새로운 가설을 설정하고 작가가 제작한 개 형상의 유물을 가상의 고고학적 자료로 해석하여 고대 유목 민족간의 문화교류와 영암 지방의 고대 문화 속에서 개의 의미를 해석하는 전설을 가상으로 기록하였으며 이를 바탕으로 모의 설치 및 발굴작업을 하였다.
고대 유목민족의 이동과 문화교류를 테마로 2000년 파리의 쥬드 폼 미술관에서도 역시 개의 형상을 수십 마리 제작하여 땅에 파묻었다가 발굴하는 이색적인 퍼포먼스를 벌였다. 프랑스 군과 십자군 전쟁, 근동의 유목민족의 고대사와 얽힌 기발한 가상 시나리오를 역사 소설가 이인화가 작성하였고, 이를 근거로 벌여지는 작가의 설치, 발굴작업은 허상과 실제, 미술과 문학의 경계를 넘나드며 문학과 미술, 고고학과 역사학 등 다방면의 학문과 관계하면서 학제적인 프로젝트로 전개되었다.