Dansaekhwa, as part of the official Collateral Events of the 56th International Art Exhibition– la Biennale di Venezia. Curated by Yongwoo Lee and organized by Boghossian Foundation together with Kukje Gallery, Seoul and Tina Kim Gallery, New York, Dansaekhwa is a landmark exhibition. Dansaekhwa is a comprehensive introduction to one of the late 20th century’s most compelling art movements, and while its artists each has a unique philosophy many overlapping concerns unite their work. These include a strong aesthetic ideal focused on the unity between artist and nature as well as a very refined approach to mark making. This emphasis on native cultural idioms was politicized during the 20th century when post-war Korean identity was in a state of radical flux. It is in these tumultuous times that Dansaekhwa evolved and helped shape modern Korean art history. While specifically rooted in a Korean context, Dansaekhwa must be seen as having important formal and conceptual links to parallel movements in Japan and the West including Gutai, Mono-ha and Abstract Expressionism.
The exhibition will showcase the works of key masters who defined Dansaekhwa’s development in the 1970s, providing an essential conceptual framework to appreciate this important movement. A subject of renewed interest in both Korea and internationally, this is a timely exhibition that explores a group of artists whose exquisitely beautiful and politically engaged work continues to have a profound influence on contemporary art. The participating artists are Chung Chang-Sup, Chung Sang-Hwa, Ha Chong-Hyun, KIM Whanki, Kwon Young-Woo, Lee Ufan and Park Seo-Bo. Yongwoo Lee has organized the exhibition to trace the development of Dansaekhwa. While a seminal historical movement that has had lasting influence, Dansaekhwa continues to be a vital framework with many of its founding artists continuing to make work. As such the curator has chosen to focus on its development over five decades, from the 1960s to today. By including works completed in different periods, the curator will emphasize how the social milieu within Korea had an impact on the development and public reception of Dansaekhwa.
In order to set the stage for many of the predominant themes that came to be associated with Dansaekhwa, including its emphasis on monochromatic compositions and innovative use of materials, Yongwoo Lee has included a major group of works from the 1960s by the artist KIM Whanki. This is an historic opportunity to see Whanki’s role as a foundational member in the post-war Korean art scene whose work and ideas contributed to the advance of Dansaekhwa.
The exhibition will occupy all three floors of Palazzo Contarini-Polignac, the iconic 15th century Renaissance palace located on the Grand Canal. Yongwoo Lee has chosen to use the multi-storied building to organize the exhibition, employing each floor to frame a time period or specific artist. With this in mind the ground floor will be devoted to new, commissioned work by Lee Ufan.
The exhibition will include both historical pieces from the early days of Dansaekhwa as well as more recent works. By including this range of studio practice spanning multiple decades, Yongwoo Lee has been able to frame the evolving ideas and ongoing tensions that exist in contemporary Dansaekhwa. In addition, an important academic conference focused on Dansaekhwa was held in January, 2015 and a recording of this event will be shown to engage the public and give necessary historical insight into its beginnings, as well as to frame some of the ongoing debates regarding its influence. Coupled with a range of related archival materials, scholarship and ephemera, the exhibition will be the first rigorous academic presentation of Dansaekhwa to be held outside of Korea and will be a landmark moment in its introduction to the international community.
Contribution by Marialuisa Pastò