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Public to Private: Photography in Korean Art since 1989
'Plate no 13' (2008) from the 'Cosmetic' Series Oh Hein-kuhn

Public to Private: Photography in Korean Art since 1989

Seung Woo Back » Chan-Hyo Bae » Joon Sung Bae » Bae Bien-U » Jae-Eun Choi » Kyungwoo Chun » Myung-Duck Joo » Yeondoo JUNG » In Sook Kim » Sang-gil Kim » Soo Kim » Atta Kim » Oksun KIM » Kimsooja » Myung-keun Koh » Bohnchang Koo » Sung Soo Koo » Hwang Kyu Tae » Jung Lee » Myong Ho Lee » Nikki S. Lee » Byung-hun Min » Hein-Kuhn Oh » Chan-Kyong Park » Hyung-Geun Park » Koh Seung-wook » Kang Yong Suk » Han Sungpil » NOH Suntag » Haegue Yang »

Exhibition: – 24 Jul 2016

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea

30 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu
110-200 Seoul

+82-2-3701 9500


Mon-Sun 10-18; Fri+Sat 10-21

This exhibition explore and illuminates how photography has been developing as a unique and mature visual language and form in itself whilst interacting with other forms of contemporary visual languages in last three decades of contemporary Korean art.

The first major photography exhibition in Korea is said to been held in 1957. Entitled The Family of Man, it was a traveling exhibition organized by MoMA, New York. Focusing on the nature and harmony of Man after the World War I & II, it had a huge impact on development of Korean photography. Since the exhibition, the Korean photography scene had been dominated by documentary and journalistic photography, rooted in realism. This current exhibition directs attention to the development of the medium of photography in the history of Korean art: from realism-based public images in its beginning to the conceptual expression and aesthetic language of individual photographers in the second half of the 1980s and onwards.

There were many world-shaking events in 1989 that were of great significance to globalization, such as Tiananmen Square protest in China (June), the fall of the Berlin War in Germany (November), and Perestroika in the Soviet Union (August 1990) the end of the Cold War transformed the values of international society. Korean society responded to the rapidity of globalization through the hosting of the 1988 Olympics and the 1989 liberalization of overseas travel, and the views and attitudes of photographers underwent a tremendous change.

Public to Private reveals how those photographers and contemporary artists have appropriated, used, and reformatted into their own visual languages the medium of photography in the global contemporary art scene. At a point when the current generation witnessed the changes due to digital revolution in the past thirty years and is facing the new possibility of photography, this show commits itself to reading into the context in which a photographer is an artist.

CHAPTER 1. Experiment starts
1989 is the year when the liberalization of overseas travel came upon after the hosting of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and those Korean artists who had studied in Germany or France returned to Korea to be active in the Korean art scene. A new horizon of Korean photography was opened by two photography exhibitions: Photography, The New Wave of the Photography (1988) organized by KOO Bohnchang who returned from Hamburg, Germany; Horizon of Korean Photography (1991, 1992 and 1994) presented the audience works of different characteristics and attitudes by photographers such as KIM Jangsup and KIM Seung Gon.
On display in Chapter 1 are works in which subjects function as cardinal concepts: Lost Landscape by JOO Myung-Duk whose work is characterized by photographic pictorial monochrome, BAE Bien-U’s Sonamu (pine tree) series and Oreum (rise) series whose production started in 1983, and MIN Byung-Hun’s Trivial Landscape, which was first shown in 1987. Also shown here are works exemplifying the passage of “making photography” exploring a variety of ways of using the medium of photography and the ones inquiring into the abstract and critical perspectives going beyond the apparent images of photographs.

CHAPTER 2. Conceptual Launch
The experiment on the medium of photography was already carried out by some conceptual artists of the 1980s. Among the paradigmatic examples are works by SUNG Wan Kyung and KIM Yongik through the formation of "Hyunsil-gwa Baleon” (reality and utterance) in 1980, and the Dadaistic and satirical photo collages by practitioners of Korean Minjung Misul (People's Art). It was Sung Neunggyung who first used the medium of photography in the context of aforementioned concept photography. Here is shown Sung Neunggyung's early work, Half of Mr. S’s Life (1977). The chapter includes the never before seen enlarged version of Drawing on Earth by LEE Seung-taek who is considered as one of the first generation of conceptual artists. In 1989 and onwards this conceptual approach was taken by those artists with social-conscious and critical attitudes who were working around Forum A, a magazine founded by PARK Chan Kyong. They opened a new horizon of conceptual art by producing a variety of performances, archives, and research projects from a novel documentary perspective imbued with a stronger criticism than before: NOH Suntak’s inquiry into the Arirang Mass Games in North Korea; flyingCity investigated many different social issues associated with the redevelopment of Cheonggyecheon; KANG Yong Suk’s Dongducheon series that brings to light the present of the U. S. presence in South Korea.

CHAPTER 3. Performance and site specificity in contemporary art
Exhibitions in the global context flourished even more in 2000 and onward. The main tendencies of the international art scene were introduced through a myriad of biennales and art fairs, and on-site production and installation attained more weight.
The medium of photography was already in use in documenting happenings and performances in the 1970s and 1980s in the West, and this use of photography began to be detected also in works by Korean artists. Such performances were introduced in a wide range from “staging” photographic works whose focus was placed in the creation of dramatic mise-en-scene images to works in which abstract notions were expressed via the medium of photography on the basis of the historical approach to personal or social memories. The medium was used to record those works whose presence was temporary or forbade one’s physical access to them. These diverse photographic expressions heralded a new beginning for photography and contemporary art.

CHAPTER 4. Exterior & interior landscape
As the digital revolution has brought the everyday use of photographic technology and photography has solidified its status as a medium of contemporary art, artists have been conducting various experiments and medium-related studies on images made of photographic entities. Reality-induced images started to be used to create non-realistic, fully private “symbols” so as to construct new narratives. “Landscape beyond image” aims to give an account of the transformation of image being attempted by the artists who are working with the medium of photography in the present-day contemporary art scene. It reveals how constructed realistic images are subverted to be extended into images that are anti-aesthetic and surreal.

BACK Seung woo    BAE Bien u    BAE Chan hyo    BAE Joon sung    BANG Byoung sang    BYUN Soon choel    CHOI Jae eun    CHUN Kyung woo    CHUNG Dong Suk    CHUNG Hee seung    FlyingCity    HAN Sung pil    HWANG Kyu tae    JOO Myung duck    JOSEUB    JUNG Yeon doo    KANG Hong goo    KANG Yong Suk    KDK    KIM Atta    KIM Dae soo    KIM In sook    KIM Jang sup    KIM Ok sun    KIM Sang gil    KIM Soo ja    KIM Soo kang    KIM Yong ik    KOH Myung keun    KOH Seung Wook    KOO Bohn chang    KOO Sung soo    LEE Jung jin    LEE Myong ho    LEE Seung taek    LEE Yoon jin    MIN Byung hun    Nikki Lee    NOH Sun tak    OH Hein kuhn    OH In hwan    PARK Bul dong    PARK Chan kyong    PARK Hyung geun    PARK Young sook    SHIN Hak chul    SONG Young sook    SUNG Neung gyung    SUNG Wan kyung    WON Sung won    YANG Hae gue    YI Gap-chul    YI Kyu-chul    YUM Jung ho   

Beyond Fashion
Fashion photographs owe their birth to the creative collaboration among stylists, hair and makeup artists, and set designers as well as photographers, and fashion photography serves as a barometer for ‘fashion’ and ‘style’ and is always willing to transform itself for the sake of ‘newness’. Beyond Fashion casts light on the current state and identity of Korean fashion photography. Korean fashion photography saw its growth in the 1970s and 1980s with the flourishing of women’s magazines of the time and confronted a rapid change in the early and mid 1990s with the advent of worldwide licensing fashion magazines. With the incoming of such worldwide fashion magazines as Elle, Marie Claire, Vogue, Bazaar, and W Korea was deluged with overseas fashion brands, which led to the simultaneous sharing of global fashion and style by people in all areas, not limited to particular cities or local regions. Free-lancer photographers since mid 1990s broadened the period of fashion photography. For the period from the mid 1990s to the present, works by key fashion photographers are featured under the four different subthemes.

Korean culture, in search of its aesthetic identity
There have been challenges and experiments to strive to the aesthetics of Korean. Vogue Korea has been carrying out experimental projects in which continuous attention to Korean aesthetics contributes to the ignition of inspirations in one’s mind under the title of ‘Koreanism,’ just like ‘Japonism’. Other licensing fashion magazines also have been tried to similar experiments. Harper’s Bazaar Korea has also published regular editions whose focus has been placed on the aesthetics of Korea for such occasions as Seollal (Korean New Year) and Chuseok (Korean harvest holiday). These attempts indicate paradoxical efforts to discover Korea’s distinctive cultural identity amid globalism. They aim at the global penetration of Korean aesthetics as in the cases of chinoiserie, which was popularized among the European nobilities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and of japonisme, which refers to the influence of Japanese culture on Impressionism.

Fashion photography and contemporary art, a creative dialogue
Art and fashion have been interacting with each other for their growths while exchanging stimuli and inspirations. In Korean society of the 1990s when interest in cultural activities exploded while being helped by political and economic stabilities, cultural infrastructure such as art museums and galleries was expanded and the fashion and magazine industries were also of growth. Following the interfaces between music and fashion and between film and fashion, various experimental challenges were performed between fashion and contemporary art. There have been creative collaborations with contemporary art in the fashion photography.

The mode, its decisive moment
It is undeniable that fashion photographs are the products of the collaborative endeavors among a range of contributors. Nevertheless, the success of fashion photography depends on the sensibility and capacity of the photographer. The shortest moment of the photographer’s clicking the camera determines whether his or her photograph is to be registered in the history of fashion or to be forgotten shortly. It is the photographer who captures the decisive moment that would captivate the eyes of the viewer by constantly adjusting the angle and intensity of light in the studio and the angle of the camera and by communicating and interacting with models so as to achieve the desired poses and expressions.

Storytelling, fashion photography with stories
Fashion is intrinsically subject to constant change according to season, and so is fashion photography. Especially in Korea whose seasons are clearly distinct, fashion photography has undergone a fascinating and intriguing development. The refreshing air of spring surrounds those women under fully-bloomed plum and cherry blossoms, and those around summer ponds are of dreaminess as in paintings by Claude Monet. The seasonal ambiences constructed in studios are likewise impressive and invigorating as a theatrical stage or a children’s story.

AHN Ju yung    BOLEE    CHO Sun hee    CHOI Yong bin    HAN Jong cheol    HONG Jang hyun    HONG LOO    KANG Hye won    KIM Bo sung    KIM Hyun sung    KIM Jung han    KIM Kyung soo    KIM Sang gon    KIM Yung jun    KOO Bohn chang    LEE Geon ho    LEE Zono    OGH Sang sun    OH Jung seok    PARK Ji hyuk    TAEWOO    YOO Yung