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The Dansaekhwa movement is an art phenomenon that emerged in South Korea in the 1960s in response to the political and social climate of that time. These artists were strongly concerned with entering the global art world while simultaneously maintaining their identities as distinctively Korean. From the perspective of the West, the prevailing view of South Korean artists — and of Asian artists as a whole — was that they could not be truly contemporary. They could find acceptance as producers of “traditional” Asian art, using familiar iconography of temples, cherry blossoms or Buddhas, or else have their works be regarded as mere imitations of Western forms, unless they were willing to entirely disavow their Asianness. The Dansaekhwa artists objected to these limited options and insisted on being recognized as both distinctively Asian, and genuinely contemporary. This project will focus on one artist associated with this group, Kwon Young-Woo. His 2017 solo exhibition, held in the Kukje Gallery in Seoul, serves to illustrate both the constraints under which contemporary South Korean artists who seek a global reputation have had to work, while also exploring the ways in which this artist has sought to open up the definition of what counts as a contemporary artist, by presenting work that is unashamedly both Korean and innovatively contemporary. In doing so, his work disrupts the Eurocentric lens through which Asian art tends to be viewed.



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Dansaekhwa: Contemporary South Korean Art