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Conceptual Art and Conceptualism of Korean Art: Focusing on the Multiple Contexts of Global Conceptualism (1999)

  • Journal of History of Modern Art
  • 2022, (51), pp.81-112
  • DOI : 10.17057/kahoma.2022..51.004
  • Publisher : 현대미술사학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Art > Arts in general > Art History
  • Received : April 27, 2022
  • Accepted : May 28, 2022
  • Published : June 30, 2022

Woo Jung-Ah 1

1포항공과대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This study explores the discursive construction of conceptual art and conceptualism in Korean contemporary art with a particular focus on Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s, an exhibition at Queens Museum in New York in 1999. The curators of the exhibition defined conceptual art that arose in New York in the mid-1960s as a formalist endeavor in the wake of modernist art. Conceptualism, on the other hand, is distinguished from conceptual art as an activist practice with political consciousness and social engagement, and appeared in multiple forms across the globe. The Korean section of Global Conceptualism was curated by Sung Wan-kyung, a formidable voice of Minjung Misul (People’s Art), a leftist art movement that emerged in the 1980s. Although Sung had been consistently critical of the conceptual art of Korean artists, especially by the ST Group (1969-1981), as apolitical, formalist, and elitist, he presented their early works along with those of Minjung artists. The organization of the exhibition reveals Sung’s attempt to resolve the decade-long opposition between modernism and Minjung Misul by reevaluating ST Group’s practices as a historical conceptualization of Korean art, in which the artists presented primordial forms of institutional critique. However, his primary purpose, I argue, was the redemption of Minjung Misul, at a time when its grounds for political struggle had vanished because of global and local social changes of the late 1980s, by redefining it as political conceptualism. It is notable that Sung ruled out the most representative paintings of social realism, once the legitimate style for Minjung Misul’s political enlightenment, and instead advocated photographs and photo montages. I argue that the discourses and practices surrounding conceptualism initiated the changes of Minjung Misul from the mid-1990s and eventually transformed the topography of Korean contemporary art.

Citation status

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