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Exhibitions: Contemporary Sculpture in South Korea Today

SeMA Sculptural Impulse
Main image of "Sculptural Impulse" at the Buk-Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul. June 9, 2022 - August 15, 2022. ©Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA)

The sculpture evolved away from its traditional form of voluminous, three-dimensional still-life objects in the twentieth century. The radical shift in the art world has introduced sculpture to embrace movements and changes, as well as its surroundings, transforming it into time-based, site-specific, environmental art.

Now that the distinction between genres is being blurred, many artists’ works intersect with the sculpture genre. Many Korean contemporary artists are also contributing new ideas and concepts to the genre.

As its boundaries in both creation and concept continue to blur, the term “sculpture” is losing favor in the Korean contemporary art world, giving way to terms such as “three-dimensional,” “installation,” and “plastic art.” Following these changes, exhibitions address how Korean contemporary sculpture art changed as the art world changed. 

Poster image of "Sculptural Impulse" at the Buk-Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul. June 9, 2022 - August 15, 2022. ©Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA)

Sculptural Impulse at the Buk-Seoul Museum of Art

Sculptural Impulse presents sixty-six works by seventeen emerging Korean artists who, since the 2010s, have been considering issues surrounding the sculpture genre and corresponding to its changes in their practices. The exhibition provides viewers with an opportunity to explore what sculpture is in today’s art world through the works of these young and emerging artists. The exhibition will be on display until August 15, 2022.

Sculptural Impulse addresses two unavoidable challenges confronting contemporary sculpture today. The first challenge is distinguishing its history from that of other genres. The evolving nature of contemporary art has blurred genre boundaries, causing sculpture to absorb various conceptual strategies while also making them unclear and even empty. The second challenge is the advent of the virtual reality era, which will fundamentally alter our perception of sculpture.

To address these issues, the exhibition includes “sculptures that can be both sculptures and non-sculptures,” “sculptures that form connections,” “sculptures that break away from images, objects, data, immaterial substances, and (social, spatial) positions,” and “sculptures that reconstruct the condition of existence.” The exhibition will provide an opportunity to reflect on what new types of sculpture have emerged and why interest in sculpture has recently increased.

Sculptural Impulse features works that fall under the broad concept of sculpture, which includes digital technology, sound, performance, and site-specific artworks. Participating artists include Jaewon Kang, Goyoson, Kwak Intan, Juree Kim, Kim Chaelin, Don Sunpil, Isaac Moon, Shin Mim, Oh Jeisung, Hannah Woo, Rhee Donghoon, Jihyun Jung, Choi Goeun, Choi Taehoon, Choi Haneyl, Yejun Hong, and Hwang Sueyon.

Main image of "Kak" at the Hite Collection, Seoul. May 28, 2022 - July 17, 2022. © Hite Collection.

Kak at Hite Collection

Kak is Hite Collection’s first exhibition of the year, and it will be on display until July 17, 2022. The exhibition aims to answer the question, “What does sculpture mean in contemporary art?” through the works of twelve emerging and established Korean artists.

The title of the exhibition, Kak, has many different meanings in Korean, including carving, corner, separate, and horn. The term refers to sculpture as an open concept containing all of the genre’s characteristics.

Postmodernism refused to adhere to a single concept, style, or form, introducing new elements to sculpture such as place, architecture, light, movement, and situation. To look back on how contemporary sculpture has developed in South Korea, the exhibition collects each participating artist’s response to the exhibition’s main question, “What does sculpture mean in contemporary art?”

The group exhibition includes works by Cha Sla, Jaiyoung Cho, Jayoung Hong, Jihyun Jung, Lee Bul, Sukyung Lee, Lim Jeongsoo, Donghee Kim, Inbai Kim, Hyun Bhin Kwon, Osang Gwon, and Do Ho Suh. It presents both early works and representative works by the twelve artists created after 1998 to examine how sculpture has changed in contemporary art in Korea; how the landscape of contemporary sculpture looks now; and how it will evolve in the future.

Main image of "Song Yung-Su: The Eternal Human" at Pohang Museum of Steel Art. Pohang. May 24, 2022 - September 12, 2022. © Pohang Museum of Steel Art.

In addition, solo exhibitions of Korean modern masters who have contributed significantly to the development of contemporary sculpture are being held.

Song Yung-SuThe Eternal Human, a retrospective exhibition of one of the first generation of Korean abstract sculptors, Song Yung-Su (1930–1970), is on view until September 12, 2022, at the Pohang Museum of Steel Art. The exhibition features the entirety of Song’s artistic practice, which introduced the possibility of iron sculpture to the history of contemporary Korean sculpture.

Main image of "(Un)Bound" at Gallery Hyundai, Seoul. May 25 - Jul 3, 2022. © Gallery Hyundai.

Gallery Hyundai is not a museum but it is holding (Un)Bound, a solo exhibition of Seung-taek Lee (b. 1932) until July 3, 2022. Lee is one of the Korean artists who pioneered the concept of “non-sculpture” in Korean experimental art. The exhibition presents many of the works that feature the artists’ ideas, with a focus on Lee’s “binding” works, which visualize abstract concepts through the twine.

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