Kukje Gallery is pleased to present The Art of Dansaekhwa, an exhibition showcasing masterworks by the seminal artists who founded and promoted its development in Korea. By showcasing these artists together the exhibition aims to re-contextualize the origins of Dansaekwha through the lens of Korean modernism.
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, which had been the dominant style. This distinction was in contrast to the activities of the 1967 Young Artists Coalition (which eventually led to the collaborative groups A.G. and S.T.) whose work was characterized by installations and happenings. By remaining true to their original focus, the Dansaekwha artists who had led the school of art informel in the late-1950s were, by the 1970s, the primary focus in Korea, becoming synonymous with contemporary art. The Dansaekhwa artists’ radical approach to painting was embodied by fusing the western concept of the surface with a distinctly Korean philosophy and aesthetic. This willingness to both adopt and modify ideas from western modernity allowed for the movement to reach beyond the confines of its own regional influences and encouraged Dansaekwha to widen its horizons and become international.
The exhibition presents the works of Chung Chang-Sup, Chung Sang-Hwa, Ha Chong-Hyun, Kim Guiline, Lee Ufan, Park Seo-Bo, and Yun Hyong-Keun the seven artists who spearheaded the Dansaekhwa movement in the 1970s. By highlighting early works from the 1970s and 80s 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 nature 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 artists’ works, capturing their disciplined approach and aesthetic vocabularies. The working process of Dansaekhwa can be considered as a type of “performance” based on the highly specific technical methods used when creating the artworks. In this way the performance of making a painting achieves a level of mindfulness akin to that seen in meditation. Dansaekwha artists pushed the boundaries of artistic practice melding materials with subject and the canvas with the self, both adopting and challenging the new western ideals entering the country. This emphasis on developing specific techniques and using traditional materials in order to synthesize their distinct creative voices and philosophies linked all of the artists, defining the movement.
The Art of Dansaekhwa at Kukje Gallery 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 the broader context of global art history.