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The Korean Monotone Painting of the 1970s: Methodology of Indefinitely Repetitive Actions

Kwon Young-jin 1

1이화여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The Korean Monotone Painting is one of the major achievements of contemporary Korean art of the 1970s. Its monotone canvas stripped of figurative forms has been regarded as a unique manifestation of ‘Korean Modernism’ which applied Korean identity to Western abstraction. This paper aims to critically review the meaning of ‘Korean Modernism,’ a term that is used almost without exception in the discourse on Monotone Painting. It focused on how this painting style was developed in relation with the social context of the 1970’s. The emphasis on ‘action’ in abstract art of the West offered an opportunity for the artists of Monotone Painting to reconsider their method of production. However, in Monotone Painting the action was interpreted, differently from that in Western abstract art, as a tool for practice of achieving unity between the materiality and the subject as well as that between the canvas and the self, and therefore was viewed in association with East Asian tradition. Production by repetitive actions, which served as a metaphysical tool to overcome material civilization of the West, conferred the status of ‘High Art’ to Monotone Painting, guaranteeing trades at high prices in the art market. This paper revealed that Monotone Painting and its aesthetic did not merely seek pure abstract art, but also weaved a multi-layered hybrid structure where different interests clashed and contradicting values coexisted.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.