Artists of ‘young power’ who will drive the art world of tomorrow have been selected. They are the so-called, ‘Newcomers 77’. Nine art experts participated in this Special Feature as nominators. They are all ‘young players’ in their 30s and 40s, all active in the Korean art scene today. Art In Culture proposed three requirements for nominations: (1) ages younger than 39, (2) held more than one solo exhibition, and (3) exclude participating artists of ‘Contemporary Artists’ of Art In Culture March 2018 edition. Here, a total of 77 next-generation artists have gathered. The composition of the newcomers are as follows. 47 women (teams), 29 men, and one mixed-gender team, showing an overwhelming share of women artists. The ‘women’s power’ that hit the art world of Korea is strong. In terms of age, 50 artists were born in the 1980s and 25 in the 1990s. It is a collective of the digital natives, Generation Y. Distinction in region is also notable. Artists based in the metropolitan area of Korea focus on exploring contemporary media, while regional artists voice out social statements or personal desires.
We categorized the work of Newcomers 77 around five keywords. It is a work of art criticism against the keywords of contemporary art, an on-ground exhibition that sums up the landscape of ‘the young and the new’.
Kwon Soonwoo (CEO of Tastehouse), Kwon Hyukgue (independent curator), Nam Woong (art critic), Lee Dongmin (curator of Daegu Art Museum), Lee Sun (curator of Gwangju Lee Kang Ha Art Museum), Chung Hyun (professor at University of Seoul), Choi Sooyeon (CEO of P21), Hong Leeji (curator of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea), Hwang Seomi (curator of Busan Museum of Art)
‘‘Real’ Rightness, A Drama of Resistance and Solidarity’
In visual arts, ‘real’ is always a hot topic. How do contemporary artists look at realism which reflects the reality of society? First, there is a group of artists who record the symptoms of the rapidly changing city and point out the issues. They shoot videos of old apartment buildings planned to be reconstructed or draw homes that have been devastated due to redevelopment. They also visualize issues like regionalism or generational conflicts, which are deep-seated problems in Korea, through paintings or installations. They extend a hand of reconciliation to the intergroup conflicts that have been festering for a long time being entangled with Korea’s polarized politics. Some works promise to never forget the tragic disasters, while others raise voice on human violence through farcical parody no one dares to laugh at. There has been a notable increase in the voices advocating for animal rights. Works that point out the uncertainty of trust spreading online, vulnerability of digital security, and the two sides of cutting-edge technology are also a new trend in the digital era.
Choi Iida is a screenwriter as well as a director who directed and . She sets an invisible ‘other side of the world’ as the backdrop to her work to find answers to vague and heavy questions. compares booting a computer to savoir-faire and sociability. Choi Iida’s moving image contains a mixture of absurd fiction and strange overturn.
Jang Jongwan portrays the contradictions and instabilities of modern society through a combination of surrealistic landscapes and whimsical situations in a funny but sad way. “The utopistic landscape portrayed on kitsch image feels like staring at a friendly waitress at a family restaurant with an overly bright smile.”
Keem Jiyoung writes books compiling facts and information in news articles with her writing. The artist’s one-color landscape series with no human figure remember the scenes of tragic incidents. “Keem’s work shows that art should not carelessly objectify the pain and suffering of tragedies, yet that there is something to be faced, and not shy away from, for better days.” (Kwon Hyukgue)
Lee Seunghee approaches the issue of conflicts in Korean society. The artist creates delicate, warm grave-shaped installations for the bodies of the victims of the Daegu subway fire, who have no surviving family, or makes Korea’s regionalism slogan ‘we are a family (우리가 남이가)’ into a wall installation, visualizing regional conflict. is a piece that shows the changes of political parties in Daegu from 1981 to today in colors.
Cho Junghwan portrays the symptoms of a rapidly changing city from a witness’ point of view. There is a strange deja vu to the artist’s landscape, and it is the outcome of reflecting his subjective thoughts, emotions, and sensibility of the city. “The crumbling stone graves and headstones are omen for disaster. The fiery sky is the soaring desire of human.”
Im Youngzoo depicts uncertain ‘faith’ through various medium, including painting, video, sound, and text. The artist points out the cracks in modern society by merging rationality and irrationality, science and superstition, recognition and imagination, and established theories and hearsay. The faith we carry unknowingly, can we trust it?
Yu Jiwon works with video and installations that project abandoned spaces, lost times, and past memories. The artist summons the fragments of time to reproduce the ruins made by individuals and society. “I appropriate construction images that repeat creation and destruction in one space-time or reproduce the ‘decorative value’ by using actual construction materials.”
Kwon Hahyung seeks out the sites of certain incidents or places to be demolished, takes photos and prints them on canvas. The artist captures the fear of disappearing and worries and longings of things that will, in the end, change. Kwon captures them in photos as “the things of no importance have no choice but naturally pass by, disappearing.”
Park Insun creates ‘combine painting’ by recording spaces that change over time in photographs and adding painting elements to them. The artist implicitly portrays the many stories and expressions in landscapes and adds unrealistic elements through brush strokes. “All fears appear in the face of unpredictability. The arrogance of human trying to control nature and endless desires….”
Rusty structures, construction site, dead pig…. The pig, which is associated with ordinary people, workers, the environment, life, and foot-and-mouth disease, is the core element that summarizes the work of Ahn Hyochan. “Ahn’s theatre stage-like work portrays the smallness and brutality of man and the hidden side of the city. There are things we can only see up close. We miss them in our lives but are reminded of them through his work.” (Lee Dongmin)
Ha Minji captures man’s violence and contradictions. The artist observes the relationship between human and animals and compare the problems that arise in animal breeding to reality. The 10-piece painting interprets the sharp conveyor belt into strange chunks and pieces, depicting the cruelty of animal slaughter.
Park Sungwan reflects landscapes and existence around him in realism painting. The artist expresses social messages, including the lyrical landscapes of the southern parts of the country, family, scenes of changing city, and construction sites, onto his canvas. “Park reproduces the colors reflected off of objects and warm colors responding to time on his canvas, building a repertoire.” (Lee Sun)
An Dongil captures the unfamiliarity in everyday scenery in his paintings, photography, and video. “Repeated observation leads to discovery, and repeated records led to my work. The dizziness from this left a scratch on me. And the scratch is what motivates me onto my next piece.” The artist started taking photos of the plaques of Admiral Yi Sunsin and Sejong the Great among others since 2016. He reveals the gap in past and present perceptions around the plaques as hollow signifier.
The subject of Han Sol’s work is contemporary arts and young artists. Starting from the question ‘what is exhibition, work, artist, and the art world’, Han compiles her perspectives into various archives. The response from the audience who observe her work is also another reference as well as another question.
Lee Eunhee compares the ontological issue of human to the mechanism of technology. She especially explores the contemporary life which exists based on data. Lee recently works on capturing and contemplating on how one individual is altered into having multiple images or is replaced as part of the system of technology industry.
Han Sol actively produces, captures, and enjoys the subculture of social media in the post-Internet era. The artist recreates a reality filled with hostility and scorn using the language used in social media. “ is full of typical butch lesbian symbols and mise-en-scène. The artist visualizes the strong emotions of those considered minorities of online ghetto.” (Nam Woong)
Lee Hansol uses books soaked in coffee, washing machines, ironing boards, shoe polish, mannequin, and massagers as materials. The artist, who recreates new context for materials based on experience, explains the work as “a process of tracking and specifying stopped time.” The artist’s work is the outcome of exploring the strictly regulated social system and the lives of modern people who live in that system.
Jung Myungwoo has collaborated with many creators. The artist reinterprets movements he captured in his collaborative work into performance. Jung explores movements by linking gestures using tools, walk, and gestures made into ‘memes’ to installations. <.bvh> is the file extension of motion capture data. The artist imagines a fictional near future where all movements are recorded by motion capture, tracking the way movements unfold through performance.
Neo-sculpture, Conflicting Materials : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts
Meta-Painting, the Never Ending ‘Flat Surface Mission’ : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts
Hashtag Culture, the ‘Virtual Hierarchy’ of Real and Fake : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts
Micro-Narrative, A Sea of Micro Stories : Newcomers 77, The Young Powers of Korean Art Selected by Nine Art Experts
※ This column is published in the February 2021 edition of Monthly Art, posted by Korea Arts Management Service under a content agreement with Monthly Art.