KWANG YOUNG CHUN B.F.A., Hong-Ik University, Korea
M.F.A., Philadelphia College of Art
Information : A Long Journey of Confrontation, Conflict, Union, And Its End.

My twenties were all about America. The thin, young man from a distant country as suddenly a social, ideological alien in a new world. The American dream of the 1960s promised success and wealth, but the reality was that innocent youths were dying on battlefields. This was a country where democracy had flourished, but young people were being doomed to an unfair death. Some were dragged into a meaningless war that ended their lives in a faraway jungle, while others absorbed themselves in antiwar campaigns and marijuana, crossing the boundary between freedom and dangerous self-indulgence.

Yet it was also obvious that human life was becoming materially richer. I remember that the early 1970s was full of rosy predictions that by the new millennium, we would conquer disease and create a new settlement on another planet within the solar system. It was almost as if we could rebuild the Garden of Eden with our own hands. Nevertheless, it somehow also seemed that society and even humankind were becoming more and more incomplete. Automobiles filled the streets and every day saw enormous supermarkets stacked anew with goods and groceries; society was ceaselessly encouraging us to consume, and we—spending tremendous amounts of energy—were always exhausted. I could see addicts and homeless people lying around in broad daylight while also perceiving invisible class distinctions and human relationships dependent on financial status and social position. In all this, my humanistic views and ideas based on Asian traditional values were no more than a useless outcry of a young alien who couldn’t adapt himself to the capitalism, materialism, and scientism of the new world that called itself America. The media reported the constant conflicts between rich and poor, black and white, capitalists and communists, victims and suspects, claiming that theworld we lived in was becoming more and more chaotic.

The artist is a witness to his times and the canary in the coal mine. After the Second World War, Abstract Expressionism began to bloom in America. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence, putting New York City at the center of the art world. Of course, it soon was followed by Pop Art, Fluxus, conceptual art, and Minimalism, but I was instantly attracted to Abstract Expressionism, which seemed to be the best way to freely express my surprise—and my sadness—at witnessing the huge gap between ideals and reality. The juxtaposition of conflicting colors, tabooed in traditional painting, was encouraged; the brushstrokes themselves proudly emerged on the surface, creating a tension between abstract forms, colors, and the canvas that burst out from the artwork, leaving multicolored lumps and wild brushstrokes like the tails of comets. Until then, I had been used to traditional art classes that forced one to have one’s artistic imagination censored by one’s teacher, but I soon accepted the freedom of Abstract Expressionism. I wanted to express the conflicts that were happening between people and between the past, present, and future, though subtly hidden behind a dangerous harmony. Abstract Expressionism was the answer to my problem. However, when I started making artwork based on this, I could hear the voice inside my head saying, “This is not wholly yours. Are you not doing it just because others are doing it?” My peers and young gallerists often praised my work, but the voice inside my head became gradually louder until it became hard to ignore.

Abstract Expressionism worked best to express the chaos and struggles of the world I lived in, but my artistic fastidiousness undermined my devotion to this art form. Soon I began to feel a sense of shame that I might remain a second-rate artist, as my artistic philosophy and method were borrowed ones. The image of cursed artists endlessly painting second-rate imitations in a gloomy studio started to haunt and devastate me. Why can’t I just compromise with reality? How can I find the best way to express my art? How can I, as a Korean artist, create my own original style? Even after I returned to Korea, I didn’t stop asking these questions of myself. I carried on with my artistic practice, but as long as I couldn’t find the answers to my questions, the atelier was not a happy place for me.

On a late spring day in 1995, the room was filled with warm sunlight coming through the window. Having been sick with a nasty cold for a few days, I sat in the living room and stared at the glass of water and a package of pills that my dear wife had brought for me. I felt the pills through the thin paper package. Suddenly, an old memory struck my mind. When I was young, I was a sickly child, and my mother used to take me to a doctor in the neighborhood who practiced traditional Chinese medicine. I never liked the place because of the strong odor from the infusions and the threatening sight of the acupuncture needles. While the doctor felt my pulse, my mother held my hand, and I fixed my eyes upon the ceiling, hearing the doctor muttering something to himself. I remember that numerous packages of mulberry paper were hanging from the ceiling, each with a name card of the medicine that was wrapped inside. The image of my old memories of the drugstore lasted in my head for a while. I always had a desire to communicate my art through a Korean sentiment, and the image of the medicine packages hanging from the ceiling became a new theme in my art since that memorable afternoon.

Every piece of information is the end product of a struggle for hegemony, as well as an accumulation of human experience. Each hypothesis is in ceaseless conflict with another, until one of them finally becomes accepted as fact, as new knowledge. While this process is sometimes attained in a peaceful way through debates and publications, it also happens in the shape of physical conflicts like wars led by the governing class. Ghengis Khan’s Mongolia provides an example of this, as did the Crusaders’ wars, which brought great changes to the ideas and lifestyles of the neighboring countries. Even now, in Africa, the only method of distinguishing one tribe from another is whether or not each tribe dresses alike or speaks the same language.

According to the Bible, at the beginning of the world, when God tried to break up the people who were building the tower of Babel, he just made their languages different from one another. As soon as communication was disrupted by different language systems, people who at one time shared the same information started to fight each other. The paper bags of Chinese medicine become information the moment the doctor writes their names on them. Each medicine has a different use; a healing medicine to one patient can be a deadly poison to another. The package I fumbled with on that afternoon is a type of information, a product of human knowledge and experience. The tablets of medicine are the refined accumulation of numerous experiments with virus and bacteria, and thanks to the fact that this information was available to me, I could shake off my cold in a few days, while my unfortunate ancestors’ lives had to depend on luck.

My recent works that began from the image of packages of Chinese medicine were the essential expression and private documentation of my desire to regard these triangular cells as the minimal unit of information. Each triangular package, covered with Korean and Chinese characters, was made from old documents of differing ages and ideas. The documents that were the only means of transferring information at those times were reborn in my hands as minimal units containing different information. The writings of Eastern philosophy are randomly reconstructed along the boundaries where folded pages meet. Sometimes the accidental combination of words are of old geographical names or ancient people’s names, but sometimes the words assume a totally new meaning—a page from the Analects of Confucius, for example, can attain an entirely different meaning that is opposed to the original idea of the book.

When you look at the rings of a tree stump, you can see the traces of the tree’s struggles against harsh weather conditions—The rings show whether there has been a severe winter or a dangerous fire. The tree itself is one of many composing a forest, but it must continually compete with the other trees for sunlight and water and fight the whims of nature. All members of nature’s “system” have their own inherent nature and appearance, and we try to decipher information about time and history from them with the help of our senses. Each human being starts from a basic unit of information: the egg and the sperm. While our appearance and nature transform through numerous cell divisions, these factors depend on the original information within the egg cell and sperm cell—information that is a product of the long-held struggle by our ancestors against nature, society, and environment.

To me, the triangular pieces wrapped in mulberry paper are basic units of information, the basic cells of a life that only exists in art, as well as in individual social events or historical facts. By attaching these pieces one by one to a two-dimensional surface, I wanted to express how basic units of information can both create harmony and conflict. This became an important milestone in my long artistic journey to express the troubles of a modern man who is driven to a devastated life by materialism, endless competition, conflict, and destruction. After almost twenty years, I was now able to communicate with my own gestures and words.

A wound is a trace of the battle between bacteria invading your body and the white blood corpuscles defending it. Simple wounds leave small scars (the empirical documents of the disease), but more complex diseases like measles, which calls for a harsh struggle against the disease, leave large scars that sometimes last for a lifetime. Individuals have trivial arguments, sometimes accompanied by physical violence. Between nations, when the nonviolent form of diplomacy becomes useless, physical wars follow. As previously stated, I tried to transform my canvas and the mulberry paper pieces into a window that reflects the history of human life. The scars of our bodies, the conflicts between members of society, the wars between nations, humans’ exploitation of nature and nature’s suffering—all of these units and the natural, social groups they constitute are dynamically in conflict with one another, and I wanted to chronologically document the force and direction of their energy. Just as two nations in war transform their borders, leaving scars on their neighboring countries, or just as billions of years ago continents collided, creating deep oceans and high mountains, in my small universe, the small units of mulberry paper create protrusions and craters over the surface. If the collision between particles in my previous example of Confucian Analects represented the collision between different thoughts and ideas of individuals and societies (that is, a difference of opinions within our system), the mass collision on the canvas symbolizes a stronger clash of events, which leaves permanent changes and deep scars.

The round and oval-shaped black hemispheres and whirlwind-like images are the product of an artistic desire to create strong tension and dramatic movement over the canvas, as well as a metaphor with multiple meanings. The confidential documents of governments show black bars over censored parts even after their period of confidentiality has expired. These black bars serve not only as a permanent termination of sensitive information, but also as a metaphorical signpost that forms a boundary between those who are able to access the information and those who cannot, creating a visual tension over the whole of the document.

The black spheres and whirlwind-like images in my work are the expressive outlet of my conscience regarding the numerous pieces of information that are censored, fabricated, and cut off. They mean the destruction of historical facts and the damaging of truth by dynasties and governments all over the world, including the Chinese emperor Shih Huang Ti, who burned books of the Chinese classics and buried Confucian scholars alive. The blackened pieces that have no words were derived from old books that no longer retain their value, that of communication, and thus are unable to compete with the other neighboring pieces. As the black ribbon of oil coming from a stranded oil tanker instantly reminds us of dead fish and dead oceans, the pieces that are blackened represent death and nonexistence and are a final requiem for the numerous lives that are no longer existing on this earth. In my recent works, I also introduced red and blue in addition to black, but the basic philosophical approach is the same.

The small, minimalistic pieces of mulberry paper are finally reborn through the act of adhering them on the canvas—creating a collision between information as well as deciding the moment of vanishment and death. The black spheres and the colorful pieces move in groups over the surface, making scars, creating movement, and depicting confrontations and conflicts. This irregularity and instability, as well as the overall sense of movement of the canvas, is a methodological approach of conveying my artistic imagination, one that I have wanted to express since I was young, and also my own serious way of reconciling myself with Abstract Expressionism, the movement in which I once was so deeply absorbed.

  • 2022
    BIENNALE ARTE 2022 Chun Kwang Young : Times reimagined Moscow Museum of Modern Art
    Venice, Italy Moscow, Russia
  • 2021
    Museum Ground
    Yongin, Korea
  • 2020
    Musuem Ground
    Yongin, Korea
  • 2019
    Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art Sundaram Tagore Gallery Beck & Eggeling Gallery
    Oregon, USA Singapore, Singapore Dusseldorf, Germany
  • 2018
    Brooklyn Museum Sundaram Tagore Gallery PKM Gallery
    New York, USA New York, USA Seoul, Korea
  • 2017
    Museum De Reede Beck & Eggeling Gallery Pearl Lam Galleries Villa Empain - Boghossian Foundation
    Antwerp, Belgium Vienna, Austria HongKong, China Brussels, Belgium
  • 2016
    Wooyang museum of contemporary art (Artsonje museum)
    Gyeongju, Korea
  • 2015
    Pearl Lam Galleries Beck & Eggeling Gallery Dovescot Studio Edinburgh (Festival)
    Singapore, Singapore Dusseldorf, Germany Edinburgh, UK
  • 2014
    Hasted Kraeutler Gallery Bernard Jacobson Gallery
    New York, USA London, UK
  • 2013
    Art Plural Gallery Museum of Seoul National University
    Singapore, Singapore Seoul, Korea
  • 2012
    Hasted Kraeutler Gallery Towson University Asian Art Center Lynchburg College Daura Gallery
    New York, USA Maryland, USA Virginia, USA
  • 2011
    Knoxville Museum of Art Gallery Hyundai Conny Dietzschold Gallery
    Tennessee, USA Seoul, Korea Sydney, Australia
  • 2009
    Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Mori Arts Center Gallery University of Wyoming Art Museum
    Singapore, Singapore Tokyo, Japan Wyoming, USA
  • 2008
    Robert Miller Gallery The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
    New York, USA gefield, Connecticut
  • 2006
    Kim Foster Gallery Annely Juda Fine Art Singapore Tyler Print Institute Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery
    New York London Singapore New York
  • 2005
    Kukje Gallery
  • 2004
    Kim Foster Gallery Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery
    New York New York
  • 2003
    Newcontemporaries Conny Dietzschold Gallery
    Sydney Sydney
  • 2002
    Kukje Gallery Michell Rosenfield Gallery Kim Foster Gallery Columbus Museum
    Seoul New York New Youk Columbus, Georgia
  • 2001
    ‘2001 The Artist of this year’, The National Museum of Contemporary Art
  • 2000
    Kim Foster Gallery Comemenoz Gallery, Key Biscayne Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery
    New York Florida New York
  • 1999
    Park Ryu-Sook Gallery Kim Foster Gallery
    Seoul New York
  • 1998
    Gallery SiKong
  • 1997
    Gallery Bhak
  • 1995
    Gallery Bhak
  • 1994
    Jong Ro Gallery
  • 1992
    Gallery Hyundai
  • 1990
    Gallery Dong Sung Arts Center
  • 1989
    Gallery Yoon
  • 1988
    Gallery Hyundai
  • 1987
    Kwan Hoon Gallery
  • 1986
    Sirota Gallery
  • 1985
    Kamakura Gallery
  • 1971
    International House Gallery
  • 1979
    Lotus Gallery Malta National Museum, Saint Julian Shin Sea Gea Gallery
    New York Malta Seoul
  • 1984
    Kwan Hoon Gallery Muramatsu Gallery
    Seoul Tokyo
  • 1968
    Seoul Cultural Center Gallery
  • 1977
    Fifth St. Gallery, Wilmington
  • 1980
    American Cultural Center Gallery
  • 1975
    Lotus Gallery
    New York
  • 1976
    Fifth St. Gallery Fine Art Center
    Wilmington, Delaware Seoul
  • 2023
    The 7th Guangzhou Triennial
    Guangzhou, China
  • 2021
    Luna Sonata: Hanji Works and Contemporary Art, Jeonbuk Museum of Art
    Jeonju, Korea
  • 2020
    Dep Art Gallery Lee Ungno Museum Special Exhibition `Moment of ㄱ(Giyeok : name of the first letter of the Korean alphabet)` , Hangaram Art Museum
    Milan, Italy Daejeon, Korea Seoul, Korea
  • 2018
    Beck & Eggeling Gallery
    Düsseldorf, Germany
  • 2016
    Hong Kong Group Show, Pearl Lam Galleries
    Hong Kong
  • 2015
    Venice Biennale, Palazzo Grimani Art Museum Museum SAN 'Spalding house : LESS = MORE', Honolulu Museum of Art
    Venice, Italy Wonju, Korea Honolulu, Hawaii
  • 2014
    ‘Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection’, Yale University Art Gallery
    Connecticut ,USA
  • 2013
    ‘The Moment, We Awe-Contemporary Art from korea’, How Art Museum
  • 2012
    ‘Design Futurology’, Museum of Art Seoul National University Museum KUNSTWERK I Sammlung Alison und Peter W. Klein,
    Seoul Eberdingen-Nussdorf, Germany
  • 2011
    Impression Gallery
  • 2010
    ‘I am the Cosmos’, New Jersey State Museum ‘Aldrich Undercover 2010’, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum,
    New Jersey Connecticut
  • 2009
    Conny Dietzschold gallery ‘Urban Archeology’- summer group shows, Kim Foster Gallery Landau Fine Art, Inc.
    Sydney New York Montreal, Canada
  • 2008
    ‘Midnight Full of Stars’ , Visual Art Center ‘Undercover Project’ , The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
    New Jersey Ridgefield, Connecticut
  • 2007
    ‘Addicted to Paper’, Gallery Lelong\
  • 2006
    Holland Paper Biennial’, CODA Museum
    Apeldoorn, The Netherlands
  • 2005
    ‘2005 Seoul Art Exhibition’ , Seoul Museum of Art
  • 2004
    Commemorative Exhibition of South Branch opening, Seoul Museum of Art ‘The Art Scene in New York’, Albright-Knox Art Gallery
    Seoul Buffalo,New York
  • 2003
    ‘Crossings 2003, Korea/Hawaii’, The contemporary Museum ‘ Art Unlimited’, Art 34 Basel
    Honolulu Basel
  • 2001
    ‘Compelled’ , Hunterdon Museum of Art
    New Jersey
  • 2000
    ‘Dealer's Choice’, Robert Kidd Gallery San Francisco Art Exhibition, Park Ryu-Sook Gallery Gwenda Jay/ Addington Gallery
    Michigan San Francisco Chicago
  • 1999
    Galerie Die Weisse
  • 1998
    Galerie Dorothea van der Koelen ‘Crossing Boundaries’, Gallery V, Columbus Galerie Dorothea van der Koelen
    Mainz Ohio Mainz
  • 1997
    ‘Korean Paper Artists’, Walker Hill Museum ‘Korean Paper Artists’, Walker Hill Museum
    Seoul Seoul
  • 1996
    ‘Anthology of Contemporary Painting Artists’, Da Do Gallery ‘Korean Paper-The Origin Esthetics’, Da Do Gallery
    Seoul Seoul
  • 1995
    L.A. International Biennale Invitation, Gallery Bhak-Remba Gallery, Seoul International Art Festival, National Museum of Contemporary Art ‘Exhibition of Paper-Korea and Japan Contemporary Artists’, Chong Ro Gallery
    L.A Gwacheon Seoul
  • 1994
    ‘Korean Paper Works of 3 Artists’, Chong Ro Gallery
  • 1993
    Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy
  • 1987
    Seoul-Yokohama Contemporary Artists Exhibition, Gallery of Art Cosmo Center
  • 1986
    Yokohama Contemporary Artists Exhibition, The Museum of Yokohama
  • 1985
    ISPPA, Walker Hill Museum
  • 1984
    '84 ISPPA-HUKUOKA, The Museum of Fukuoka
  • 1982
    ‘Ecole de Seoul’, The National Museum of Modern Art, Korea Today's Artists Exhibition, Kwan Hoon Gallery
    Seoul Seoul
  • 1977
    The Invited Show 2 Contemporary Artists, Fifth St. Gallery, Wilmington
  • 1976
    The Invited Exhibition Contemporary Artists, Baulchie Institute Museum The Invited Exhibition Lotus 10 Artists, Lotus Gallery The Invited Exhibition Contemporary Artists, University of Delaware Museum
    Philadelphia New York Delaware
  • 1975
    William Penn Memorial Museum Wanamaker Gallery Woodmare Gallery
    Harrisburg Philadelphia Philadelphia
  • 1974
    The 24th Cheltenham Art Exhibition, Cheltenham Art Center Derexel University Museum
    Cheltenham Philadelphia
  • 1973
    Civic Center Museum Earth Art Modern II Art Exhibition, Philadelphia, Philadelphia Civic Center Museum
    Philadelphia Philadelphia
  • 1966-68
    Korean Contemporary Artists Invited Exhibition, The Chosun Il-Bo Press Group
  • 1971-78
    National Forum of Professional Artists Show, Philadelphia Civic Center Museum
  • 1966-67
    The Shin Sang Group Show, National Museum of Modern Art
  • 2009
    Presidential Prize in the 41st Korean Culture and Art Prize, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Seoul, Korea
  • 2001
    Chun Kwang Young; Artist of the Year 2001, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea
  • 1974
    Silver Prize in the 27th Cheltenham Art Center Exhibition sponsored by Cheltenham Art Center
  • 1973
    Special Prize in the Earth Art II sponsored by Civic Center Museum, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S.A
  • 1969
    Special Prize in the 18th Korean National Art's Exhibition sponsored by the Korean Culture and Arts Foundation, Seoul, Korea
  • 1967
    Korean Contemporary Artist's Invited Exhibition Special Prize, held by Chosun Press Group, National Museum of Modern Art, Seoul, Korea
  • 1967-66
    Special Prize in the 5th, 6th Shin Sang Group Exhibition, held by Shin Sang Group, National Museum of Modern Art, Seoul, Korea
Public Collections
  • The British Musuem London, U.K
  • M+ HongKong
  • Wooyang museum of contemporary art (Artsonje museum) Gyeongju, Korea
  • Yale University Art Gallery Connecticut, USA
  • Victoria & Albert Museum London, U.K
  • KUNST Museum Bonn Bonn, Germany
  • National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Gwachun, Korea
  • Columbia University of Law New York, USA
  • University of Virginia Art Museum Virginia, USA
  • How Art Museum Wenzhou, China
  • United Nations headquarters New York, USA
  • Dr. Christiane Hackerodt Stiftung für Kunst und Kultur Bonn, Germany
  • The Seoul National University Museum of Art Seoul, Korea
  • Seoul Museum of Art Seoul, Korea
  • Busan Metropolitan Art Museum Busan, Korea
  • Pak Young Sa Publishing Co Seoul, Korea
  • Hansol Foundation of Culture Seoul, Korea
  • Rosewood Stone Group CA, USA
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center Washington DC, USA
  • Malta National Museum, Malta, USA
  • The Museum of Hong-ik University Seoul, Korea
  • Hansol Foundation of Culture Seoul, Korea
  • Arario gallery Cheonan/Seoul, Korea
  • Neiman Marcus Department Store Dallas, USA
  • The Leeum, Samsung Museum Seoul, Korea
  • The Honolulu museum of Art Honolulu, USA
  • Potash Corporation-USA Headquarters Chicago, USA
  • William Penn Memorial Museum Philadelphia, USA
  • Rockfeller Foundation New York, USA
  • Hotel Shilla Seoul, Korea
  • Chosun Hotel Gyeongju, Korea
  • LG Group Seoul, Korea
  • Han Wha Corp. Seoul, Korea
  • Syn Key Group Seoul, Korea
  • Il Shin Spinning Co. Seoul, Korea
  • Seoul 63 Building Seoul, Korea
  • Sa Jo Corp. Seoul, Korea
  • Tita and Gene Zeffren Chicago, USA
  • Oracle Corporation New York, USA
  • Woong-Jin Group Seoul, Korea
  • The National Military Academy Seoul, Korea
  • International Finance Corp. Washington.DC, USA
  • Fidelity Investments Boston Boston, USA
  • National Gallery of Australia at Canberra Canberra, Australia
  • Continental-Bental L. L.C. Washington, USA
  • Jacson Consulting Corp. Coral Gables, USA
  • Codina Group Inc. Coral Gables, USA
  • Dong Yang Tinplate Corp Seoul, Korea
  • Seo Heung Metal Co. Seoul, Korea
  • Yu Yu Ind. Ltd. Seoul, Korea
  • Lake Hills Country Club Su Won, Korea
  • Sea Ah Group Seoul, Korea
  • Philadelphia Society Building Philadelphia, USA
  • Seo Won Valley Country Club Song-Chou, Korea
  • Lattangio E Associati SRL Milan, Italy
  • Chase Manhattan Bank New York, USA
Private Collections
  • Werner and Ingrid Welle  
  • Eyal Ofer  
  • David Blei  
  • Robert Shaye Remba USA
  • Leon Black  
  • Victor Barnett (Chairman of Burberry’s) UK
  • Gina Barroso MEXICO
  • Leon Black  
  • Bennett Lebow USA
  • Michelle & Herbert Rosenfeld USA
  • Dorothy Lamelson USA
  • Bruce & Judith Eisner USA
  • Marla Prather / Senior Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art NY
  • Larry & Hazel Rosen USA
  • Frank & Barbara Peters USA
  • Franklin Silverstone NY
  • David Bassford USA
  • Ronald A. Pizzuti USA

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