Leeum Samsung Museum of Art Presents Korean Rhapsody – A Montage of History and Memory

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art Presents Korean Rhapsody – A Montage of History and Memory on view through 5 June 2011.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art showcases the dramatic shifts in Korea’s national identity since 1876 in its spring exhibition Korean Rhapsody – A Montage of History and Memory, a collection of art and historical documents on view of Korean modern history.

Suh Do-ho “Uni-form/s:Self Portrait/s:My 39 Years,” 2006. 169 x 56 x 254 ㎝, fabric, fiberglass resin, stainless steel, casters

Korea’s modern era is widely considered its most eventful since the country’s foundation. Its rise from devastation following the Korean War (1950–1953) to its emergence as an Asian tiger stands out as one of the most dramatic development success stories ever. But decades of colonial rule under Japan followed by ideological division leading to an ethnic war on the peninsula caused severe damage and confusion to the nation’s dignity and the identity of its people.

Korean Rhapsody sheds lights on these experiences through the visual narratives of the artists and visionaries of the age. The works displayed range from visual archives, painting, photography and video—together assembling a “montage of history and memory” by exploring themes of identity, war, trauma and nature.

In Part I, Symbols of Modernity (1876–1945), the exhibit focuses on works marking a shift from tradition notably Chae Yong-shin’s Portrait of Confucian Scholar, revealing the influence of photorealism at the turn of the century, as well as impressionist works by Korean painters who studied in Japan during colonial rule. In the same section, the show also presents images of early Korea as seen by Japanese artists in ukiyo-e or Japanese woodblock prints from the Meiji era (1868–1912), as well as contemporary works that redefine the period. By including them the exhibition refuses to present a linear, chronological analysis of modernity. Instead it invites an organic narrative and mixes various images and shifts in perspective by juxtaposing the works of artists from different periods and contrasting styles.

In Part 2, Unfamiliar Hopes (1945–2011), the show presents a broad spectrum of contemporary Korean art, including works by pioneers of Minjung Misul, or people’s art movement, during the 1980s. It also highlights later works by artists deeply engaged in a contemporary discourse on identity: including Suh Do-ho’s Uni-form/s: Self Portrait/s: My 39 Years, and Oh Hein Kuhn’s Ajumma photography series exploring the feminine identity of middle-aged Korean women.

Korean Rhapsody – A Montage of History and Memory also features a broad range of photo archive, documentary films and literature from throughout the period, thus presenting a voluminous picture of the country’s modern history and the shifting identity of its people.

Curated by Joon Lee, Deputy Director, Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art

Sponsored by Samsung Electronics, co. Ltd.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art was opened in central Seoul in 2004 and provides a unique environment to house the comprehensive collections of traditional and contemporary art in Korea. Three buildings make up the composite complex. MUSEUM 1 is devoted to the exhibition of traditional Korean artwork. MUSEUM 2 showcases modern and contemporary works by both Korean and foreign artists. Finally, the Samsung Child Education & Culture Center supplements the two Museums by contributing to the cultural education of our future leaders. This cultural complex was designed by three internationally acclaimed architects, Mario Botta, Jean Nouvel and Rem Koolhaas. The three buildings exist in harmony with each other, though each piece has its own uniqueness. These architectural works are designed to accommodate the past, present, and future of art and culture.

The museum is committed to establishing and preserving a new interpretation and perspective of traditional Korean art, encouraging and presenting new trends in Korean modern art, and displaying international contemporary art that reflects the preeminent values of our time.

Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
747-18 Hannam-Dong, Yongsan-Gu,
Seoul, KOREA 140-893

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