National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art opens retrospective of the work of Yun Hyong-keun
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National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art opens retrospective of the work of Yun Hyong-keun
Yun Hyong-keun, Umber-Blue, 1976, oil on cotton, 31 1/2 x 24 3/4 inches.

SEOUL.- Born in 1928 in Cheongju, Yun Hyong-keun lived through one of the most traumatic periods of Korean history, suffering great misfortune related to Japanese colonial rule, the Korean War, and the postwar dictatorship. Yun was incarcerated four times, and once faced with near-certain death. Only after surviving harrowing incidents did Yun fully commit himself to making art, in 1973 when he was 45 years old.

From the moment he dedicated himself to painting, Yun clearly established his own distinct artistic world, which he called the “gate of heaven and earth.” In the quintessential series of works, Yun used a wide brush to apply thick blocks of black paint to canvasses of plain cotton or linen. To be precise, the paint was not actually black, but slightly variant mixtures of the same two colors: blue (representing “heaven”) and umber (representing “earth”). From their production method to their final appearance, these paintings are simple, genuine, and organic. With these seemingly offhand works, Yun succeeded in translating the humble, comfortable, and solid values of Korean traditional aesthetics into the lexicon of international contemporary art.

11 years after his death, this exhibition explores Yun’s life and art with unprecedented range and depth, introducing many details and perspectives that have not yet received adequate attention. Most notably, the displays feature a wealth of personal materials including early drawings, a large archive of photos, and strikingly honest excerpts from Yun’s private journals. Through diverse materials and works, this exhibition comprehensively explores the life and art of Yun Hyong-keun, who has thus far been known primarily within the context of the Dansaekhwa movement in Korea.

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