Newsletter Vol.1

  • Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing,
       the first Korean art scholarship exhibition under The Hyundai Project at LACMA
  • Long-term Partnership between Hyundai Motor Company & Tate
       Kara Walker named the 2019 Hyundai Commission Artist
  • Hyundai Motor Company-sponsored exhibition
       History Has Failed Us, but No Matter opens at La Biennale di Venezia 2019 Korean Pavilion

  • Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing, the first Korean art scholarship exhibition under The Hyundai Project at LACMA
    Lee Samman, Radiance of Mountains, Colors of Water (detail),
    19th century, Korean, private collection
      Hyundai Motor Company and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) have together bolstered the research for Korean art history under The Hyundai Project at LACMA. The exhibition on Korean calligraphy, Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing , takes place from June 16 to September 29, 2019 at LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion, as part of the exemplary long-term partnership. The exhibition is a culmination of three years of profound research on Korean calligraphy, sponsored by the Hyundai Motor Company, with aims to widen the scope of understanding on Korean calligraphy. Holding its significance as the first Korean calligraphy exhibition overseas, the exhibition encompasses works dating from pre-Three Kingdoms Period more than two millennia ago to present day. Furthermore, the fact that the first-ever English publication on the subject will result from this project adds another layer of significance. The exhibition will act as the incubator nurturing further international research on Korean calligraphy, propagating its beauty and cultural-anthropological values.

      Calligraphy has long been recognized as an elegant art form. It is understood from a myriad of perspectives, being regarded as more than the mere printing of information. The process is an artistic task in itself: slowly grinding the ink stick on the ink stone, preparing the paper, holding the sleeves, and collecting thoughts before translating one’s ideas onto the paper. It is a meditative task that symbolizes the state of mind and spirit, and a means of self-reflection. From the harmony of strokes to the rhythmic interplay of shadows and space, the dynamic representation of each character truly ignites an artistic inspiration. Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing embodies works that span through 2000 years of such written works of art. Some 100 works being presented in the exhibition render detailed descriptions of both Hangeul (the Korean phonetic script) and Hanja (the Chinese ideographic characters) writing systems. Moreover, visitors may take a glimpse into the society of the time and the advancement of technology, embracing thousands of years of human history through Korean calligraphy.

      Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing takes a comprehensive approach on Korean calligraphy. It goes beyond merely displaying conventionally mounted handscrolls and hanging scrolls written from the court or the aristocracy. Instead, the exhibition utilizes 10,000 square meters of space to showcase calligraphic art created by women and men from all strata and era: the court, bureaucrats, literati, monks, and contemporary artists alike. Likewise, the media of calligraphic works also range from regular paper to woodblocks, ceramics, metal, and fabric. This reflects the use of calligraphy as an intricate part of Korean people’s daily lives, be it epitaphs on tombstones, seal engravings, birth and marriage records on silk, or ancient poems inserted in ink wash paintings. Visitors will be able to experience the life of the people of the time and ponder upon the cultural-anthropological implications of each work.

      The exhibition also highlights the early Joseon period in its chronological display of Korean calligraphy. The early Joseon period was a critical period in the development of Korea’s unique calligraphic art, during which the writing system and phonology of Hangeul took shape. This rich survey of early and mid-Joseon calligraphy allows a deeper investigation of Hanja and Hangeul calligraphies in juxtaposition, explains stylistic development of calligraphy in later Joseon, and traces design changes in the Four Friends of the Study, comprised of the brush, ink stick, paper, and ink stone. The exhibition also presents a detailed examination of the developmental process of printing technologies, from ancient Bangudae Petroglyphs, Goryeo period woodblock printings and metal movable type from the Joseon period to digital prints and photography of the contemporary age.

      Studies on calligraphy became widespread from the 1960s, thanks to numerous art museums around the world. Nevertheless, none of them have held any exhibition exclusively on Korean calligraphy, and notable exhibitions and studies for international discourse on Korean calligraphy have been non-existent. Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing takes note of this weak standing of international research on Korean calligraphy. The over 400-page exhibition catalog being published on the occasion includes more than 250 color images and explains unique calligraphic styles, the key concept of calligraphy, and complex sociocultural backdrops. As such, the court customs, Buddhist theology, and different schools of thoughts are also captured to provide visitors a better understanding of the life, faith, and philosophy of Koreans in different walks of life. This first-ever comprehensive English catalog on Korean calligraphy, features essays by curators of the exhibition Stephen Little and Virginia Moon, as well as writings by experts from Korea, including Professor Yi Wanwoo at the Academy of Korean Studies, Lee Dong Guk, the Director of the Seoul Calligraphy Art Museum, and Professor Cho Insoo at the Korea National University of Arts.

      Showcasing a wide range of calligraphy art, from the masterpieces of Chusa Kim Jeong-hui and Shin Saimdang of the Joseon period to those by contemporary artists Lee Kang-so and Kyungwoo Chun, Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing promotes the aesthetic and anthropological value of Korean calligraphy in the international art scene. Going forward, the Hyundai Motor Company and LACMA will continue the journey with a far-sighted vision that stretches beyond the boundaries of technology and tradition. By doing so, we seek to build a well-rounded platform and innovative models for research, while disseminating creative values of culture and art.

    Long-term Partnership between Hyundai Motor Company & Tate
    Kara Walker named the 2019 Hyundai Commission Artist
    Kara Walker [Photo courtesy: Ari Marcopoulos]
      Kara Walker’s newest work will be unveiled this fall at Tate Modern, thanks to the Hyundai Motor-Tate partnership. In 2014, Hyundai Motor Company and Tate set sail for their eleven-year long journey including the Hyundai Commission, a long-term corporate-museum partnership with the mission of advancing and popularizing contemporary art. Hyundai Commission takes place annually at Tate Modern’s iconic Turbine Hall, presenting innovative and large-scale installation projects. Every year, a single artist or an artist group is chosen for the Hyundai Commission. Beginning with Abraham Cruzvillegas in 2015, this project has introduced newest works by prominent international artists such as Philippe Parreno (2016), SUPERFLEX (2017), and Tania Bruguera (2018) so far. In the fifth edition of the Hyundai Commission, Kara Walker will take up the Turbine Hall from October 2, 2019 to April 5, 2020.

      The prominent African American artist Kara Walker is best known for her black cut-out silhouettes that investigate the history of slavery and the American South. Recently, the artist expanded the scope of her media to include video, drawing, and sculpture, and she has been contemplating deeply on key issues of the contemporary society such as race, gender, sexuality, and violence.

      Walker’s black cut-out silhouettes is a unique reinterpretation of silhouette portraits highly popular in early 19th century American society. The artist takes this centuries-old image-making technique and conducts an experiment of her own, giving variations in methodology and content. Among many of her works, the 15-metre wide monumental mural she presented in an exhibition at the Drawing Center in 1994 captured the eyes of the global audience and art experts. At a glance, her silhouettes offer an experience akin to reading a children’s book; yet a closer look at these life-size silhouettes quickly fades that experience as people realize the mural is full of provocative and poignant images that undermine moral codes and fundamental orders of the society and history. These shadow-like images stimulate visitors’ imaginations, making them visualize scenes too brutal to sketch. Kara Walker’s black cut-out silhouette projects came under the spotlight in the 1990s and were introduced in exhibitions around the world, including the São Paulo Art Biennial 2002, where the artist represented the United States. In 2007, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis organized a survey of her work, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love , which travelled to a number of renowned institutions, including Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

      Kara Walker’s overtly explicit and violent work has raised both criticism and praise over many decades. Her work forces us to confront the dark and painful history through her provocative imagery. Walker extends the controversy entailed in her work as she expands the scope of media she works with to include installation, video and sound. A case in point is her 2014 site-specific installation at the former Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, entitled A Subtlety. Measuring approximately 23 meters long and 10 meters tall, this monumental sugar-coated sculpture in the form of a sphinx was placed at the center of the factory space, as if it were a guardian of the city or a hero. The colossal installation powerfully recalled the reliance of slave labor on sugarcane plantations that created the profitable sugar industry in the 19th century. In 2017, Walker presented The Katastwóf Karavan , a calliope (steam-whistle organ) set in a caravan decorated with her iconic black silhouetted figures. The caravan was installed outdoors in Algiers Point in New Orleans (a former slave port), as it played tunes originating from the African American experience, reminding visitors of the scars of slavery and racial discrimination that continue to this day.

      Tate Modern’s Director Frances Morris said that Kara Walker’s new work for the Turbine Hall “will address history and identity with a powerful directness, but also with great understanding, nuance and wit.” Walker’s practice now reaches beyond boundaries set by race, gender, and culture, and addresses issues of the contemporary society. What issues and discourse will Kara Walker bring to the Turbine Hall this fall, and what questions will she have for the British society and culture?

    Hyundai Motor Company-sponsored exhibition
    History Has Failed Us, but No Matter opens at La Biennale di Venezia 2019 Korean Pavilion
    From left, Jane Jin Kaisen, siren eun young jung, Hyunjin Kim, Hwayeon Nam
    [Photo courtesy: Art Council Korea]
      Hyundai Motor Company-sponsored exhibition of the Korean Pavilion at La Biennale di Venezia 2019 opened on May 11. The Korean Pavilion was erected in Venice’s Giardini in 1995 and plays a critical role as one of the major national pavilions of La Biennale di Venezia, which boasts a 124-year long history. Over the past twenty-some years, the Korean Pavilion has been exploring Korean and East Asian histories, traditions, societies and cultures in a variety of contexts.

      The Korean Pavilion’s exhibition this year is titled History Has Failed Us, but No Matter . It is open to the public until November this year, alongside other national pavilion exhibitions and the main show of the 58th International Art Exhibition titled, May You Live in Interesting Times. The Korean Pavilion’s exhibition title is borrowed from the Korean American author Min Jin Lee’s first sentence of the novel Pachinko, which sketches the lives of zainichis, or Korean Japanese. History Has Failed Us, but No Matter sheds light on the stories of different subjects who live strenuously despite oppressions and restrictions imposed by the society and history.

      The exhibition questions who canonized historical depictions and which subjects are not yet part of that history. In exploring this question, the exhibition emphasizes gender diversity as the key “lens” to read out history from multiple perspectives. The Korean Pavilion’s curator Hyunjin Kim has been studying the historicity and uniqueness of East Asia through research and numerous exhibitions, and for La Biennale di Venezia this year, she invited three women artists: Hwayeon Nam, siren eun young jung, and Jane Jin Kaisen. Together, they focus on “active narratives of women that divert from and reformulate the canonical understandings of modern and contemporary East Asia.” The exhibition goes beyond simply telling stories of women; it offers critical reflections on the past century’s society and history that have been dominantly western-centric and patriarchal. Critical review of the one-sided and limited historical understanding is a theme that many international art exhibitions, including those of the Korean Pavilion, have tackled over the years. Rooted in critical gender consciousness, this year’s exhibition at the Korean Pavilion is in line with other contemporary art shows, and it will present a diverse range of narratives and dynamic perspectives to the international audience.

      The majority of works at History Has Failed Us, but No Matter are videos. The three artists, who have been examining societies, histories, and cultures of Korea and East Asia for a number of years, now connect the stories and lives of women to the greater sociohistorical context. Each of their works reorganize or bring new perspectives to sound and performances such as women’s dance, choreography, and ritual ceremony. The resulting works, in themselves, exist as extraordinary aesthetic creations, while functioning as audiovisual archives that recall oppressed societies and their histories at the same time.

      Hwayeon Nam has been working with “performative” video, sound, and photography to explore layers of cultural and anthropological meaning implicit in people, objects, and space. In Venice this year, she presents Dancer from the Peninsula, which traces the archive of Choi Seung-hee, an early 20th century woman dancer and choreographer who lived through the tumultuous period of Korea. Nam offers a keen insight on complex and comprehensive subjects such as imperialism, colonialism, orientalism, Cold War and nationalism, as well as diaspora, all of which are intertwined with the life of Choi Seung-hee. Nam’s video and installations unfold the life and art of Choi in a very unique artistic language, as they trace her steps as a woman artist, visualize the dance space that Choi longed for, and present to the audience an experience that traverses the past and the present as well as concepts of control and flight. Along with Dancer from the Peninsula, Nam also presents Italian Garden at the Korean Pavilion. Hwayeon Nam’s unique reinterpretation of performance, video, sound, photography and other visual material offers visitors the opportunity to examine methodologies of contemporary video art that reflect on select history or societies.

      For numerous years, siren eun young jung has focused on yeoseong gukgeuk, a topic that she has explored in several of her series. Yeoseong gukgeuk is a genre of Korean theater that only features women performers, which peaked in the 1950s but then quickly began to wane. It thus failed to survive either as a traditional or contemporary performance. For the Korean Pavilion, siren eun young jung created A Performing by Flash, Afterimage, Velocity and Noise, an extended edition of her existing work on yeoseong gukgeuk. This latest version juxtaposes multichannel videos that document performances of today’s queer performers and that of Lee Deung Woo, a surviving second generation yeoseong gukgeuk actress, recognized for playing men’s roles. Four queer performers that jung selected for this project are: Seo Jiwon, the director and actress of a disabled women’s theatre company, lesbian actress Lee Ri, transgender electronic musician KIRARA, and drag king performer Azangman. Through this multichannel production that presents Lee Deung Woo and four contemporary queer performers’ works together, siren eun young jung questions the normative boundaries of queer aesthetics, the dichotomy of gender roles, and politics involved in their dynamic structures. jung’s new production thus sheds light on the history of a forgotten theatrical tradition and the lineage of queer performances that often go unnoticed. Encountering her work will be an opportunity for visitors to see how certain history and communities are recalled, and also witness how jung’s practice drives changes in the way we perceive and understand the topics visited in her work.

      Jane Jin Kaisen has been working with video installations and experimental documentaries that intercross group histories and individual memories. This year, she joins the Korean Pavilion with Community of Parting, which revisits the ancient Korean myth of Princess Bari in the contemporary sociopolitical context of East Asia. The ancient myth is explained alongside gender discrimination, borders, and narratives of diaspora women, and discusses issues such as war and nationalism. The work that integrates diasporic women’s voices, the Bari myth and shamanic rituals of Jeju sparks us to think of foreign refugees in Jeju and around the world, and it also reminds us of the artist’s personal history of having been born in Jeju and being adopted into a Danish family. Community of Parting goes beyond addressing the artist’s personal experience and the region-specificity of Jeju, and shares her subtle yet keen reflection that encompasses Asia’s tradition, modernity, and history.

      In speaking of La Biennale di Venezia 2019, Ralph Rugoff, the Director of the Hayward Gallery in London and the Curator of this year’s Biennale, said that the exhibition will discuss complex issues of the contemporary international society. In this context, Hyunjin Kim asks who constructed the canonized order, rules, systems and structures of the international society. She goes on to question that these troublesome structures on which the world stands today may be products of western-centric and male-centric thinking. To tackle these questions, the Korean Pavilion exhibition adopts voices of women, which facilitates a critical reflection on the modernization of Korea and East Asia while driving new understandings and reorganization of existing orders and rules. The exhibition is thus in line with Ralph Rugoff’s main exhibition that brings to table many social issues; yet at the same time the Korean Pavilion offers a very particular and unique discourse presented through the Korean lens. La Biennale di Venezia 2019 is open to the public from May 11 to November 24, 2019 at the Giardini, the Arsenale, and various locations around the city of Venice.